StarTiger Dropter Project: Development and Flight Experiment of a Skycrane-Like Terrestrial Lander Demonstrator
In Proceedings of the ESA GNC 2014: 9th International ESA Conference on Guidance, Navigation and Control Systems, (GNC-2014), 02.6.-06.6.2014, Porto, ESA, Jun/2014.
The STARTIGER DROPTER project is a R&T development of the ESA STARTIGER initiative aiming at the development and improvement of key technologies for future planetary exploration and landing missions in a relatively short time, applying an agile management process. Within the project, a terrestrial landing test vehicle based on a multi-rotor carrier platform is developed. The carrier platform is used to deploy an exploration rover mock-up using a bridle system.
During the project, several flight tests are planned in order to demonstrate the ability of autonomously and safely deploying the rover system. Key capabilities for this task are the autonomous detection of a safe landing site through camera in the loop navigation, avoidance of hazards with lateral divert maneuvers and control of the carrier ship during the lowering phase, ensuring a smooth and highly accurate rover touchdown and deployment.
This paper aims at presenting the objectives and constraints of the project, which were derived from the original Sky-crane concept missions of Mars Science Laboratory and ESA's Mars Precision Lander Study. It then describes the mission profiles for the terrestrial flight demonstrations.
The paper presents the trade-offs which led to the selection of the chosen multi-copter platform concept and describes the mechatronic system design, the concurrent design process and the integration and tests that were done during the project. Finally the paper presents the setup and conduction of the flight campaign which is to be conducted early 2014 at a test site in northern Germany.
The paper concludes with a presentation of the results of the flight campaign and a crosscheck of the achievements of the project objectives.