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Thursday, July 1, 2010

NASA, Draper Test Navigation & Guidance System for Proposed Lunar Robotic Mission

A NASA-led team featuring Draper Laboratory took its first steps towards landing a humanoid robot on the Moon during flight testing on June 23.

The testing is part of Project M, a proposed mission that aims to safely and precisely land a small spacecraft carrying a human-like robot who will walk on the Moon within 1000 days of project approval. Draper is working with NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) and the University of Texas (UT) to develop the guidance, navigation and control system (GN&C).

Draper built the GENIE (Guidance Embedded Navigator Integration Environment) system, which was launched during the June 23 test aboard a Pixel rocket built by Armadillo Aerospace. The testing, the first in a series of field tests intended to demonstrate Project M’s GN&C system, took place at Armadillo’s facilities in Caddo Mills, Texas.

 The GENIE, which Draper designed and built in seven weeks, successfully demonstrated a real-time, fully functional landing guidance and navigation solution derived from the NASA Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology (ALHAT) Program. The next steps will involve the NASA/Draper/UT-developed GN&C solution demonstrating full control over a larger vehicle to incorporate an ALHAT developed Hazard Detection System, while flying a wider variety of more lunar-like trajectories.

“The rapid development and test being demonstrated on this effort is an example of what can quickly be accomplished by a partnership between NASA and non-profit research and development labs,” according to Séamus Tuohy, director of space systems at Draper.

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