A document discusses the continuing development of a navigation system that would enable a spacecraft to approach Mars on a trajectory precise enough to enable the spacecraft to land within 1 km of a specified location on the Martian surface. This degree of accuracy would represent an order-of-magnitude improvement over that now obtained in radiometric tracking by use of the Deep Space Network. The navigation system would be implemented largely in software running in digital processors in the Electra transceiver, the Mars Network's standard radio transceiver, that would be in both the approaching spacecraft and Mars Network orbiter. The Mars Network is an ad hoc constellation of existing and future Mars science orbiters and dedicated telecommunication orbiters that has been established as a communication and navigation infrastructure to support the exploration of Mars. The software would exploit the sensory and data-processing capabilities of the Electra transceivers to gather Doppler-shift and other radiometric tracking data and process those data into trajectories data that would be accurate to within 0.3 km at the point of entry into the Martian atmosphere (as needed to land within 1 km of a target surface location).

This work was done by Courtney Duncan and Todd Ely of Caltech and E. Glenn Lightsey of the University of Texas at Austin for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Electronics/Computers category.

The software used in this innovation is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Karina Edmonds of the California Institute of Technology at (626) 395-2322. Refer to NPO-43092.


This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Mars-Approach Navigation Using In Situ Orbiters

(reference NPO-43092) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the July, 2007 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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