Tech Briefs

Smart-Divert Powered Descent Guidance to Avoid the Backshell Landing Dispersion Ellipse

The software and methods are valid for planetary or lunar powered descent.

A smart-divert capability has been added into the Powered Descent Guidance (PDG) software originally developed for Mars pinpoint and precision landing. The smart-divert algorithm accounts for the landing dispersions of the entry backshell, which separates from the lander vehicle at the end of the parachute descent phase and prior to powered descent. The smart-divert PDG algorithm utilizes the onboard fuel and vehicle thrust vectoring to mitigate landing error in an intelligent way: ensuring that the lander touches down with minimum- fuel usage at the minimum distance from the desired landing location that also avoids impact by the descending backshell.

The smart-divert PDG software implements a computationally efficient, convex formulation of the powered-descent guidance problem to provide pinpoint or precision-landing guidance solutions that are fuel-optimal and satisfy physical thrust bound and pointing constraints, as well as position and speed constraints. The initial smart-divert implementation enforced a lateral-divert corridor parallel to the ground velocity vector; this was based on guidance requirements for MSL (Mars Science Laboratory) landings. This initial method was overly conservative since the divert corridor was infinite in the down-range direction despite the backshell landing inside a calculable dispersion ellipse. Basing the divert constraint instead on a local tangent to the backshell dispersion ellipse in the direction of the desired landing site provides a far less conservative constraint. The resulting enhanced smartdivert PDG algorithm avoids impact with the descending backshell and has reduced conservatism.

This work was done by John M. Carson and Behcet Acikmese 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. .

The software used in this innovation is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Dan Broderick at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . NPO-47884