Sulcata software simulates the operation of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) radar terminal descent sensor (TDS). The program models TDS radar antennas, RF hardware, and digital processing, as well as the physics of scattering from a coherent ground surface. This application is specific to this sensor and is flexible enough to handle end-to-end design validation. Sulcata is a high-fidelity simulation and is used for performance evaluation, anomaly resolution, and design validation.

Within the trajectory frame, almost all internal vectors are represented in whatever coordinate system is used to represent platform position. The trajectory frame must be planet-fixed. The platform body frame is specified relative to arbitrary reference points relative to the platform (spacecraft or test vehicle). Its rotation is a function of time from the trajectory coordinate system specified via dynamics input (file for open loop, callback for closed loop). Orientation of the frame relative to the body is arbitrary, but constant over time.

The TDS frame must have a constant rotation and translation from the platform body frame specified at run time. The DEM frame has an arbitrary, but time-constant, rotation and translation with respect to the simulation frame specified at run time. It has the same orientation as sigma0 frame, but is possibly translated. Surface sigma0 has the same arbitrary rotation and translation as DEM frame.

This work was done by Curtis W. Chen of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

This software is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Karina Edmonds of the California Institute of Technology at (626) 395-2322. Refer to NPO-46161.

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Terminal Descent Sensor Simulation

(reference NPO-46161) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the July, 2009 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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