NASA has tested the future Mars rover’s camera-based navigation system aboard a rocket-powered test platform built by Masten Space Systems.
The agency said Tuesday Xombie carried a prototype of the Mars 2020 rover’s Lander Vision System 1,066 feet into the air to perform a precise landing at a predesignated target.
LVS works to direct a spacecraft to land at a target site or divert touchdown toward safer terrain if there are hazards in the target area, NASA added.
The vision system is built to help Mars 2020 access areas with “high scientific interest” since previous landers and rovers did not have the capacity to analyze and react to hazards and were limited to sites with mostly flat terrain, the agency noted.
NASA’s space technology mission directorate funded the flight tests as part of the Flight Opportunities program that aims to obtain commercial suborbital space launch services relevant to NASA’s space exploration goals.
The space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory leads the development of Mars 2020 and researchers are now building the flight system.