Skip Navigation
Center Independent Research & Development: GSFC IRAD

Maturation of Optical Navigation Tools Using Mission Data

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

Artist depiction of the MESSENGER spacecraft in orbit around Mercury (public domain)

This IRAD proposes to mature GSFC’s current capabilities in both ground-based and autonomous optical navigation (OpNav) and Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN) using a collaboration with Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL). Sensor data from APL’s New Horizons and MESSENGER missions will be processed in a similar ground navigation pipeline as was used for the independent validation and verification (IV&V) on the OSIRIS-REx mission, and compared with APL’s operational navigation for those missions. The main objectives of this project are twofold, (1) the technology maturation and risk reduction of GSFC’s state-of-the-art tool for performing OpNav and TRN: Goddard Image Analysis and Navigation Tool (GIANT), and (2) to provide a set of baseline planetary navigation results for future validation of onboard autonomous navigation technologies. OpNav is the process of capturing images of celestial targets (planets, small bodies, natural satellites) against a star background, while the targets are distant and only occupy a small number of pixels in an image. Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN) uses images of terrain on the surface of celestial targets, where the target fills a significant fraction of the FOV. Surface features in the images are correlated with a priori maps (e.g. previously collected images or derived digital terrain models (DTMs)), resulting in line-of-sight measurements. This IRAD is funding software development and ground system simulations taking place at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, MD.

More »

Anticipated Benefits

Project Library

Primary U.S. Work Locations and Key Partners

Technology Transitions

Light bulb

Suggest an Edit

Recommend changes and additions to this project record.