A simulation testbed architecture was developed and implemented for the integration, test, and development of a TRL-6 flight software set called AutoGNC. The AutoGNC software will combine the TRL-9 Deep Impact AutoNAV flight software suite, the TRL-9 Virtual Machine Language (VML) executive, and the TRL-3 G-REX guidance, estimation, and control algorithms. The AutoGNC testbed was architected to provide software interface connections among the AutoNAV and VML flight code written in C, the G-REX algorithms in MATLAB and C, stand-alone image rendering algorithms in C, and other Fortran algorithms, such as the OBIRON landmark tracking suite.

The testbed architecture incorporates software components for propagating a high-fidelity “truth” model of the environment and the spacecraft dynamics, along with the flight software components for onboard guidance, navigation, and control (GN&C). The interface allows for the rapid integration and testing of new algorithms prior to development of the C code for implementation in flight software.

This testbed is designed to test autonomous spacecraft proximity operations around small celestial bodies, moons, or other spacecraft. The software is baselined for upcoming comet and asteroid sample return missions. This architecture and testbed will provide a direct improvement upon the onboard flight software utilized for missions such as Deep Impact, Stardust, and Deep Space 1.

This work was done by John M. Carson III, Andrew T. Vaughan, David S. Bayard, Joseph E. Riedel, and J. Balaram of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The software used in this innovation is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Daniel Broderick of the California Institute of Technology at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Refer to NPO-46557.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the August, 2010 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from this issue here.

Read more articles from the archives here.