Space

June 30, 2014

Masten’s Xombie flight tests astrobotic’s autonomous landing system

Masten’s rocket-powered Xombie technology demonstration vehicle rockets skyward during a flight test of Astrobotic Technology’s autonomous landing system.

Astrobotic Technology’s newly developed autonomous landing system was put to the test recently when it controlled Masten Space Systems’ XA-0.1B Xombie suborbital technology demonstration rocket during a NASA-sponsored launch and landing at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, Calif.

In a June 20 test funded by the Flight Opportunities Program of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, the vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing Xombie ascended to about 853 feet (260 meters) in 25 seconds. During the boost phase, the Astrobotic Autolanding System (AAS) was activated and it navigated the vehicle to a precise landing location, avoiding sand bags that had been placed as mock hazards. If the AAS had chosen a landing point other than one of the two open pads, Masten software would have overridden the prototype system to land the vehicle safely.

The test objectives included accurately tracking Xombie’s location, detecting hazards larger than 10 inches (25 centimeters) and finding an acceptable landing location. The AAS uses cameras and an inertial measurement unit for navigation, because the Global Positioning System used on Earth would not be available for a landing on another planet or the moon.

“Conceptually, this is like the Apollo missions where the astronauts navigated to a safe landing by looking out the window of the lunar landing module,” explained Kevin Peterson, Astrobotic’s chief technology officer. “In this case, we have an onboard computer instead of an astronaut, and the cameras, inertial measurement unit and software are so precise that they can track the craft’s location to within a few meters.”

In February, Mojave-based Masten and Astrobotic, headquartered in Pitttsburgh, had flown the Xombie in an open-loop test in which the AAS payload was running and collecting data. The open-loop flights followed a pre-set trajectory, but the vehicle did not accept any data or commands from the autonomous landing system.

Engineering intern Nick Robbins and aerospace engineer Tyler Roberson of Masten Space Systems complete installation of Astrobotic’s autonomous landing system atop the Xombie technology demonstration vehicle.

The June 20 flight test was a closed-loop flight where the Astrobotic landing technology sent both data and commands to Xombie, influencing its flight path to avoid hazards and land safely.

“I am very excited by the preliminary results of this test,” said Chris Baker, Flight Opportunities Program campaign manager. “Terrain relative navigation and autonomous hazard avoidance are on the technology road maps for missions to Mars, Europa and elsewhere in the solar system. Two small companies working together have successfully demonstrated technologies that will not only assist them in their future endeavors, but have also been identified as enabling future NASA missions.”

Through NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, officials have been working with commercial companies, universities and government organizations to coordinate testing of innovative space technologies on research flights through the use of commercial suborbital flight platforms.

Astrobotic Technology’s autonomous landing system is mounted atop Masten Space Systems’ Xombie vehicle prior to launch from the Mojave Air and Space Port.

The Flight Opportunities Program is managed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards, California. NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., manages the solicitation and selection of technologies to be tested and demonstrated on commercial flight vehicles.

NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate is innovating, developing, testing, and flying hardware for use in NASA’s future missions. Over the next 18 months, the directorate will make significant new investments that address several high priority challenges for achieving safe and affordable deep-space exploration.

Click here for the YouTube link




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines December 19, 2014

News: SpaceX’s attempt to land rocket on floating barge postponed - It’s set to be one of the most groundbreaking moments in humanity’s six decades of space exploration. Obama signs $1.1 trillion spending bill into law - President Obama signed the $1.1 trillion federal spending measure into law Dec. 16, officially ending any threat of a government...
 
 

News Briefs December 19, 2014

Trial set for ex-Navy engineer in military secrets case A former Navy civilian engineer is scheduled to stand trial next summer on charges of trying to steal aircraft carrier schematics. Media outlets report that 35-year-old Mostafa Awwad of Yorktown, Va., pleaded not guilty Dec. 17 to two counts of attempted exportation of defense articles and...
 
 
Army photograph by C. Todd Lopez

Army to launch cruise missile-detecting aerostat at Aberdeen Proving Ground

Army photograph by C. Todd Lopez The Army plans to launch an aerostat, part of the “Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor,” in late December 2014. The JLENS aerostat will be tethered to the...
 

 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Jordan Castelan

AF delivers Iraqi F-16s for training in US

Air Force photograph by SrA. Jordan Castelan Iraqi air force captain Hama conducts preflight inspections while inside a new to service Iraqi F-16 Fighting Falcon Dec. 17, 2014, located at the nearby Tucson International Airport...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SSgt. Derek VanHorn

Short-notice: A new way to exercise

Air Force photograph by SSgt. Derek VanHorn Airmen from Kadena Air Base, Japan, prepare for an aeromedical evacuation exercise on a KC-135 Stratotanker Dec. 5, 2014, at Misawa Air Base, Japan. The operation was executed in supp...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Andy Wolfe

Japan, Australia to provide F-35 maintenance sites in Pacific region

Lockheed Martin photograph by Andy Wolfe An F-35C Lightning II joint strike fighter carrier variant prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 6, 2014. Japan and Australia will be sharing...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>