Aerospace & Defense
Successful Rocket Test of Autonomous Landing Software
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory tested its G-FOLD divert algorithm experimental landing system in September, 2013, at the Mohave Air & Space Port in Mojave, CA. G-FOLD, which stands for Fuel Optimal Large Divert Guidance Algorithm, enables a rocket to select an alternate landing site, autonomously. The test was performed aboard Masten Space Systems' XA-0.1B Xombie rocket. More ambitious than the previous flights, this test had the Xombie rocket initially travel diagonally away from the target landing site after launch. This simulated a worst-case spacecraft landing maneuver and forced the G-FOLD algorithm to calculate, in real time, a flight path that crossed over itself to reach the safe landing site. The accurately executed half-mile-long, three-dimensional divert showed the potential of what G-FOLD could mean for future space missions.