The MER (Mars Exploration Rover) Attitude and Pointing System Simulation Testbed Environment (RAPSSTER) provides a simulation platform used for the development and test of GNC (guidance, navigation, and control) flight algorithm designs for the Mars rovers, which was specifically tailored to the MERs, but has since been used in the development of rover algorithms for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) as well.

The software provides an integrated simulation and software testbed environment for the development of Mars rover attitude and pointing flight software. It provides an environment that is able to run the MER GNC flight software directly (as opposed to running an algorithmic model of the MER GNC flight code). This improves simulation fidelity and confidence in the results. Furthermore, the simulation environment allows the user to “single step” through its execution, pausing, and restarting at will. The system also provides for the introduction of simulated faults specific to Mars rover environments that cannot be replicated in other testbed platforms, to stress test the GNC flight algorithms under examination.

The software provides facilities to do these stress tests in ways that cannot be done in the real-time flight system testbeds, such as time-jumping (both forwards and backwards), and introduction of simulated actuator faults that would be difficult, expensive, and/or destructive to implement in the real-time testbeds. Actual flight-quality codes can be incorporated back into the development-test suite of GNC developers, closing the loop between the GNC developers and the flight software developers. The software provides fully automated scripting, allowing multiple tests to be run with varying parameters, without human supervision.

This work was done by Charles A. Vanelli, Jonathan F. Grinblat, Samuel W. Sirlin, and Sam Pfister 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-46288.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

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

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