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Nasa Details Software Algorithm That Could Precisely Guide Future Spacecraft Landings

By Network World

August 16, 2013

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Researchers at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are developing algorithms designed to land spacecraft safely. One of the key algorithms under development is the Fuel Optimal Large Divert Guidance (G-FOLD) algorithm. G-FOLD is designed to incorporate a spaceship's trajectory, speed, and landing information to guide a ship to a safe landing. The algorithm is being flight-tested in conjunction with Masten Space Systems at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

NASA says G-FOLD "autonomously generates fuel optimal landing trajectories in real time and provides a key new technology required for planetary pinpoint landing." The algorithm incorporates the maximum and minimum thrust magnitude, the thrust pointing direction, the glide slope, and the maximum velocity. The landing "maneuver must be computed onboard in real time because the state of the lander cannot be predicted at the start of powered descent phase," NASA says.

Conventional algorithms do not optimize fuel usage and significantly limit how far the landing craft can be diverted during descent, NASA says.

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