Tech Briefs

Risk-Constrained Dynamic Programming for Optimal Mars Entry, Descent, and Landing

A chance-constrained dynamic programming algorithm was developed that is capable of making optimal sequential decisions within a user-specified risk bound. This work handles stochastic uncertainties over multiple stages in the CEMAT (Combined EDL-Mobility Analyses Tool) framework. It was demonstrated by a simulation of Mars entry, descent, and landing (EDL) using real landscape data obtained from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Although standard dynamic programming (DP) provides a general framework for optimal sequential decisionmaking under uncertainty, it typically achieves risk aversion by imposing an arbitrary penalty on failure states. Such a penalty-based approach cannot explicitly bound the probability of mission failure. A key idea behind the new approach is called risk allocation, which decomposes a joint chance constraint into a set of individual chance constraints and distributes risk over them. The joint chance constraint was reformulated into a constraint on an expectation over a sum of an indicator function, which can be incorporated into the cost function by dualizing the optimization problem. As a result, the chance-constraint optimization problem can be turned into an unconstrained optimization over a Lagrangian, which can be solved efficiently using a standard DP approach.

This work was done by Masahiro Ono and Yoshiaki Kuwata 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. . NPO-48606