Mercury Laser Altimeter Science Algorithms is a software system for controlling the laser altimeter aboard the Messenger spacecraft, which is to enter into orbit about Mercury in 2011. The software will control the altimeter by dynamically modifying hardware inputs for gain, threshold, channel- disable flags, range- window start location, and range- window width, by using ranging information provided by the spacecraft and noise counts from instrument hardware. In addition, because of severe bandwidth restrictions, the software also selects returns for downlink. To reduce mission risk, the software incorporates three different modes of operation. The three modes are denoted as fixed, range-driven, and closedloop (or adaptive). The fixed mode provides fixed hardware inputs for all but the threshold. The range-driven mode receives and utilizes ranging information from the spacecraft regarding its slant range to the planet or asteroid. The adaptive mode is capable of improving upon the ranging information provided by the spacecraft by use of a closed-loop range-estimation algorithm. The software is sufficiently robust that it could be used on other missions, and in fact, this has already been proposed.

This program was written by Jacob S. Rosenberg of Goddard Space Flight Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at under the Software category. GSC-14876-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the May, 2006 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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