EAGLE (Environment for Autonomous GNC Landing Experiments) is an experimental Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) vehicle developed by the GNC systems department as a demonstrator for GNC technologies.
Its intent is to demonstrate and verify Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GNC) technologies for exploration vehicles which shall land on the Moon, planets and other celestial bodies such as asteroids. These types of mission often require a main engine for soft landing.
In addition, EAGLE is also suitable for researching navigation and control systems for space transportation. On the one hand, a vertical take-off is a fundamental characteristic of launch vehicles; on the other hand, research in the area of re-usable launch vehicles is currently a global topic for future launchers. One possible option for re-usability is to have the first stages of a launcher return to ground in a controlled manner, using their main thrusters for powered descent and landing. Disturbing effects like structural oscillations or sloshing of fuel and their effect on the GNC system can then be researched using EAGLE.
Contrarily to launchers and planetary landers, EAGLE is not powered by a rocket engine but by a small jet engine, which makes its operation safer and far less costly. Additionally, the vehicle is controlled with a thrust vectoring unit and a cold gas thruster system. For autonomous flight EAGLE is equipped with a set of navigation sensors combined using an advanced filtering algorithm.