A Summary of Draper Laboratory’s GENIE Campaign

Precision Landing Exploration Technology (PLANET)
PI: Douglas Zimpfer, Draper Laboratory
Via NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program


Planetary Landing Exploration Technology (PLANET) leverages mature cross-cutting Autonomous Guidance, Navigation and Control (AGNC) technology and flight proven hardware to provide cost-effective, safe closed-loop sRLV flight demonstration of Precision Landing AGNC. The demonstration results provide risk reduction of the application of precision landing and hazard avoidance to a broad range of future NASA missions and technology demonstration projects. In addition to maturing the Precision Landing AGNC technology, the project extends the capabilities of the sRLV vehicles and enable future technology demonstrations.

Technology Areas

  • TA04 Robotics, Tele-Robotics and Autonomous Systems
  • TA07 Human Exploration Destination Systems
  • TA09 Entry, Descent and Landing Systems
  • TA11 Modeling, Simulation, Information Technology and Processing


Problem Statement

Demonstrated performance of the sRLV to fly simulated lunar and planetary approach trajectories will extend the vehicle capabilities to support future lunar and planetary payload demonstrations, while demonstration of the Precision Landing AGNC is the first step in an incremental approach to demonstrated autonomous landing and hazard avoidance technologies. Finally, the inclusion of the AGNC capability will enable future technology demonstration across a broad range of the Technology Roadmaps, e.g., demonstrating Human System Collaboration systems for autonomous landing, demonstrating off-vehicle crew training and/or mission operations training for interaction with robotic vehicles.

Technology Maturation

Successful completion of the adaptation and flight test objectives will mature the precision landing technology to TRL 6 by demonstrating closed-loop AGNC system flight performance in a relevant environment. Additionally, the overall capability of the sRLV to support future test demonstrations with representative lunar or planetary trajectories will be matured to TRL 9.

Future Customers

Precision landing AGNC is applicable to future NASA landing missions to the Moon or planets, to future proposed precursor landing missions, commercial landing missions and potential Near-Earth Object missions. Previous efforts on each of these missions have identified the benefits of precision landing and hazard avoidance capability, but have all avoided implementation due to risk. E.g., every incarnation of human landing has identified the desire to land in more hazardous terrain, under less-desirable lighting constraints, requiring precision landing and hazard avoidance, but no program has baselined the capability within its concepts of operations. The extended capability of the sRLV to incorporate the Precision Landing AGNC would enable a broader range of flight opportunities and provides confidence that closed-loop flight demonstrations can be performed safely benefiting future OCT Flight Opportunities payloads.


Flight Experiment Objectives

Draper proposes to leverage the GENIE hardware and ALHAT Precision Landing AGNC software to mature this critical cross-cutting technology through flight demonstrations. The GENIE provides a mature capability that through adaptation can successfully and safely perform closed-loop flight demonstrations. Draper, NASA and Masten Space have already initiated efforts to adapt the payload for flight.

Payload Description

The AGNC software and GENIE hardware is ready for flight. Significant simulation and analysis have been performed on the Precision Landing AGNC software to demonstrated closed-loop functionality and performance of all of the proposed trajectories including the simulated lunar trajectory. The GENIE hardware and software system has undergone significant testing including preliminary open loop flight testing. Draper has already initiated an effort to integrate the precision landing AGNC with the Masten Space sRLV to demonstrate the feasibility of performing closed-loop flight demonstrations.


Payload Performance

5 flight campaigns have been performed to date:

Campaign 1 + 2

Flight profiles C1 and C2 were completed to certify the vehicle with the GENIE payload in control. C1 was an open loop free flight campaign performed in November 2011 and C2 (video) was a closed loop tethered hop campaign completed in December 2011.

Campaign 3

C3 was a closed loop demonstration of the GENIE payload commanding a 50m free flight pad-to-pad hop. It occurred on February 2, 2012. More information about this campaign is available at NASA and at Draper Labs.

Campaign 4 + 5


C4 and C5 flight profiles were successfully flown on Friday March 22 and Monday March 25, 2013 respectively. The objectives of these 2 flights was to expand the envelope both in height and down range distance as explained in this GENIE test flight campaign package.