This project investigated advanced navigation strategies required to approach, perform proximity operations, and return a sample from an asteroid or comet. An optimized navigation strategy for a notional mission to a near-Earth asteroid was developed to serve as a baseline for future missions and mission proposals. Essential simulation and analysis software enhancements were developed and implemented in the Orbit Determination Toolbox (ODTBX), an open-source, early mission navigation analysis tool suite built on a flexible architecture. The development efforts of this project resulted in the first fully open-source tool suite with the capabilities of performing primitive body navigation simulation and analyses.

The innovation consists of two major components: (1) an optimized baseline navigation strategy, and (2) enhanced primitive body navigation simulation and analysis software tools. The baseline navigation strategy is a culmination of multiple trade studies involving all phases of a notional mission to collect a sample from a near-Earth object. The enhanced software tools were developed as part of the ODTBX. Requirements for software development were derived from subject matter experts and previous mission experiences. Software enhancements include multiple body dynamics, non-spherical gravity models, and optical navigation simulation capabilities.

This type of software environment is ideal for mission analysis during proposal and concept phases of a flight project. It also facilitates research into new navigation techniques, including advanced filtering methods and innovative measurement sources.

This work was done by Kenneth Getzandanner and John Adams of Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-16405-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the October, 2015 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from this issue here.

Read more articles from the archives here.