2011

Hazard Detection Software for Lunar Landing

The Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology (ALHAT) Project is developing a system for safe and precise manned lunar landing that involves novel sensors, but also specific algorithms. ALHAT has selected imaging LIDAR (light detection and ranging) as the sensing modality for onboard hazard detection because imaging LIDARs can rapidly generate direct measurements of the lunar surface elevation from high altitude. Then, starting with the LIDAR-based Hazard Detection and Avoidance (HDA) algorithm developed for Mars Landing, JPL has developed a mature set of HDA software for the manned lunar landing problem.

Landing hazards exist everywhere on the Moon, and many of the more desirable landing sites are near the most hazardous terrain, so HDA is needed to autonomously and safely land payloads over much of the lunar surface. The HDA requirements used in the ALHAT project are to detect hazards that are 0.3 m tall or higher and slopes that are 5° or greater. Steep slopes, rocks, cliffs, and gullies are all hazards for landing and, by computing the local slope and roughness in an elevation map, all of these hazards can be detected. The algorithm in this innovation is used to measure slope and roughness hazards. In addition to detecting these hazards, the HDA capability also is able to find a safe landing site free of these hazards for a lunar lander with diameter ≈15 m over most of the lunar surface.

This software includes an implementation of the HDA algorithm, software for generating simulated lunar terrain maps for testing, hazard detection performance analysis tools, and associated documentation. The HDA software has been deployed to Langley Research Center and integrated into the POST II Monte Carlo simulation environment. The high-fidelity Monte Carlo simulations determine the required ground spacing between LIDAR samples (ground sample distances) and the noise on the LIDAR range measurement. This simulation has also been used to determine the effect of viewing on hazard detection performance. The software has also been deployed to Johnson Space Center and integrated into the ALHAT real-time Hardware-in-the-Loop testbed.

This work was done by Andres Huertas, Andrew E. Johnson, Robert A. Werner, and James F. Montgomery of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

This software is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Daniel Broderick of the California Institute of Technology at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Refer to NPO-47178.

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