SNC leverages proven sensor tech in space
Wednesday December 23, 2020 0 comments
LOUISVILLE/SPARKS, Nev. -- Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) said it is leveraging decades of expertise in navigation and guidance systems to develop enhanced vision technology for space applications, including moon and planetary landings.
“Navigation and landing systems, and collision avoidance, are really a sweet spot for SNC,” said SNC’s CEO Fatih Ozmen.
“So much of what we have learned from our national security programs about sensor processing, display rendering techniques and pilot perception -- how to display information effectively to safely guide a pilot -- is directly applicable to crewed and uncrewed landings on the moon or Mars.”
Using the terminology of its national security customers, SNC’s Degraded Visual Environment (DVE) solutions combine an array of active and passive sensors with Lidar to enable pilots to takeoff, fly and land safely in a multitude of low-visibility conditions such as brownout, whiteout, rain and fog.
This provides military and civilian pilots with a significant advantage by supporting high speed, low-altitude flight in dangerous environments including mountainous regions, deserts, megacities and urban canyons.
SNC said its next mission is to create a system to provide sufficient visibility to avoid hazards during planetary landings in space.
For instance, moon missions to the lunar poles may require landings in complete darkness or extreme shadows. Avoiding common landing hazards, such as craters, slopes and rocks, was difficult for the Apollo astronauts in optimal lighting conditions, and it becomes a significant problem for vehicles operating at the poles.
SNC is currently evaluating a solution to augment the crew’s natural vision with enhanced vision.
A key advantage of enhanced vision is the option of manual flight for landing. While many landing vehicles have the ability to fully operate autonomously, if the autonomy fails or degrades, the crew will have to take over control.
In that case, enhanced vision display imagery and symbology could be a critical element for successfully monitoring an autonomous landing or conducting a manual landing in space.
“If a vehicle’s design already includes Lidar to support autonomous landings, our enhanced vision system can use that Lidar data to create imagery and guidance for the crew displays,” said Janet Kavandi, executive VP of SNC’s Space Systems based in Louisville and a former NASA astronaut.
“We are really excited to be on the forefront of actively conceptualizing and refining this kind of cutting-edge space exploration technology.”