G-CAT is a covariance analysis tool that enables fast and accurate computation of error ellipses for descent, landing, ascent, and rendezvous scenarios, and quantifies knowledge error contributions needed for error budgeting purposes. Because GCAT supports hardware/system trade studies in spacecraft and mission design, it is useful in both early and late mission/ proposal phases where Monte Carlo simulation capability is not mature, Monte Carlo simulation takes too long to run, and/or there is a need to perform multiple parametric system design trades that would require an unwieldy number of Monte Carlo runs.

Landing Site Reconstruction based on descent camera imagery. Copyright 2010 California Institute of Technology. Government sponsorship acknowledged.
G-CAT is formulated as a variable-order square-root linearized Kalman filter (LKF), typically using over 120 filter states. An important property of G-CAT is that it is based on a 6-DOF (degrees of freedom) formulation that completely captures the combined effects of both attitude and translation errors on the propagated trajectories. This ensures its accuracy for guidance, navigation, and control (GN&C) analysis. G-CAT provides the desired fast turnaround analysis needed for error budgeting in support of mission concept formulations, design trade studies, and proposal development efforts.

The main usefulness of a covariance analysis tool such as G-CAT is its ability to calculate the performance envelope directly from a single run. This is in sharp contrast to running thousands of simulations to obtain similar information using Monte Carlo methods. It does this by propagating the “statistics” of the overall design, rather than simulating individual trajectories.

G-CAT supports applications to lunar, planetary, and small body missions. It characterizes onboard knowledge propagation errors associated with inertial measurement unit (IMU) errors (gyro and accelerometer), gravity errors/dispersions (spherical harmonics, masscons), and radar errors (multiple altimeter beams, multiple Doppler velocimeter beams). G-CAT is a standalone MATLAB- based tool intended to run on any engineer’s desktop computer.

This work was done by Dhemetrios Boussalis and David S. Bayard of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

This software 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-47854

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).

Covariance Analysis Tool (G-CAT) for Computing Ascent, Descent, and Landing Errors (reference NPO-47854) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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