Mars and moon exploration passing through the european precision landing GNC test facility

Guizzo, G.P. and Bertoli, A. and Torre, A.D. and Magistrati, G. and Mailland, F. and Vukman, A. and Philippe, C. and Jurado, M.M. and Ori, G.G. and Macdonald, M. and Romberg, O. and Dedei, S. and Zaccariotto, M. (2008) Mars and moon exploration passing through the european precision landing GNC test facility. Acta Astronautica, 63 (1-4). pp. 74-90. ISSN 0094-5765 (

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In the frame of the ESA Aurora exploration program, the precision landing on Mars and Moon is of strategic importance because the ability to land on sites with high scientific interest is not a straightforward task. From here is the need to provide a dedicated test facility able to test Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) techniques and technologies, both vision and LIDAR based, in a realistic environment, in real time and as much as possible in a real scale. This is a fundamental step through which the planetary exploration will pass through in order to reduce the inherent risks associated with any landing mission. The ESA project named Precision Landing GNC Test Facility (PLGTF) has been conceived with this purpose, has been successfully started and, at the time of writing of the paper, has reached the detailed design phase. PLGTF will emulate a real lander dynamics during the powered descent phase in an atmospheric and non-atmospheric planetary environment, minimising the unavoidable scale factor to be applied. PLGTF is going to be the first ever-built facility with such a performance and it will be able to validate the entire GNC chain of a planetary landing system. The paper describes the PLGTF configuration for what concerns its first implementation, mainly devoted to validate the navigation function of a vision-based landing system and the associated sensor, and will also provide some preliminary information on the planned enhancements.