Modeling cratered surfaces with real and synthetic terrain for testing planetary landers

Iain Martin (Lead / Corresponding author), Stephen (Steve) Parkes, Martin Dunstan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
167 Downloads (Pure)


The autonomous guidance of a spacecraft lander requires extensive testing to develop and prove the technology. Methods such as machine vision for navigation and both vision and LIDAR for hazard avoidance are being studied and developed to provide precise, robust lander guidance systems. A virtual test environment which can simulate these instruments is a vital tool to aid this work. When available, terrain elevation models can provide a base for simulation but they frequently contain artifacts, gaps or may not have the required resolution. We propose novel techniques to model heavily cratered surfaces for testing planetary landers by combining crater models and fractal terrain to create a multi-resolution mesh for simulating a spacecraft descent and landing. The synthetically enhanced models are evaluated by comparing enhanced terrain based on Clementine/RADAR data with higher resolution terrain models from Selene and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to show that the artificial models are suitable for testing planetary lander systems.
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2916-2928
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


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