Testbed for Robotic Optical Navigation (TRON)

The large-scale Testbed for Robotic Optical Navigation (TRON) at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) DLR Institute of Space Systems in Bremen supports the development and validation of optical navigation systems. The focus is on the generation of sensor data and highly accurate reference data for typical scenarios expected to occur in future space exploration missions.

Special hardware for optical navigation in space

Optical sensors are an important component of high-precision navigation systems for future exploration missions. These sensors can be qualified up to a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 7 in the TRON laboratory. The devices typically tested in TRON are passive and active optical sensors such as cameras or scanning and flash lidar technology.

The laboratory's main components are a robot for dynamic positioning of the hardware being tested, a variable lighting system, laser measurement devices for highly accurate reference data, and a real-time control system for overseeing the tests and synchronising the reference data with the sensor data.

Different tests have different requirements within the test environment. The laboratory can be adapted accordingly with the help of user-defined upgrades, such as terrain models. In this case, relevant sections of a typical landing trajectory are represented by combining three terrain models at different scales. For example, two asteroid models with different scales allow the simulation of approach manoeuvres to the asteroid Eros.

TRON offers a realistic environment and high-precision reference dataset that can be manually accessed at any time, thus providing ongoing support for the development of optical sensor technology, from concept through to the cost-effective validation of the flight model at TRL 7. Tests can be carried out in real time, in an open loop configuration or with feedback from the sensor data, even in closed loop mode. This combination of testing options is unique in Europe.


Volker Speelmann

Head of Research Infrastructures
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Executive Board department for Innovation, Transfer and Research Infrastructure
Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne

Hans Krüger

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute of Space Systems
Navigation and Control Systems
Robert-Hooke-Straße 7, 28359 Bremen