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Duration: 12 months
Starting date: September 2008
Status: Concluded
Project Contact:
Rita Ribeiro,
Luís Simões

Scientific Advisors:
Rita Ribeiro

ESA / ESTEC - Innovation Triangle Initiative (ITI)

Project Reference:
ESTEC 21744/08/NL/CBI

Technical Officer:
Remi Drai

IPSIS - Intelligent Planetary Site Selection - Past Research Projects
Project Summary
In a hazard avoidance architecture for Planetary Landers, the Site Selection (also known as Piloting) function is tasked with selecting in real-time an adequate landing site, which meets mission, safety and reachability requirements:
  • The site must be compliant with mission constraints such as scientific interest, visibility from Earth etc.;
  • The site must be safe with respect to local slope, light level and terrain roughness;
  • The site must be reachable with the remaining propellant and the spacecraft's propulsive capabilities;
  • The site must remain visible by the imaging sensor throughout the descent so that its estimated characteristics can be continuously updated.
The IPSIS (Intelligent Planetary SIte Selection) project developed innovative software for autonomous Decision Making in the selection of a safe landing site during an interplanetary landing.

The main objective of IPSIS was to formalize and implement an autonomous, dynamic and adaptable multi-criteria mathematical model to choose the best target-landing sites, and to determine when re-targetings should occur. A complex decision model was developed in this project for dealing with its challenging requirements: past historic information influences the assessment of the present alternatives (dynamics); sophisticated data preparation processes normalize and fuse the data, while handling its inherent uncertainty (adaptability); and a retargeting process tracks the evolution in the quality of the best identified sites, and recommends, at a time of its choosing, new landing coordinates towards which the lander should move. The adherence to the tight computational budgets allowed by the on-board processors also prompted the introduction of non-exhaustive approaches to site selection, where the evaluation of the high number of sites scanned by the lander's sensors is guided by meta-heuristics which allow an efficient identification of the best sites from a minimal sampling of the available alternatives.

Developed Architecture
Research Areas
  • Planetary landing site selection
  • Autonomous hazard avoidance systems
  • Fuzzy multiple criteria dynamic decision making
  • Dynamically changing input data
  • Aggregation operators
  • Particle Swarm Optimization
  • Tabu Search
Bourdarias, C., Da-Cunha, P., Drai, R., Simões, L. F., and Ribeiro, R. A. (2010). Optimized and flexible multi-criteria decision making for hazard avoidance. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual AAS Rocky Mountain Guidance and Control Conference, Breckenridge, Colorado. American Astronautical Society. [ bib | .pdf ]

Pais, T. C., Ribeiro, R. A., and Simões, L. F. (2009). Computational Intelligence in Complex Decision Systems, volume 2 of Atlantis Computational Intelligence Systems, chapter Uncertainty in Dynamically Changing Input Data. Atlantis Press, Paris, France. [ bib ]

Reynaud, S., Drieux, M., Bourdarias, C., Philippe, C., Simões, L. F., and Pham, B. V. (2009). Science driven autonomous navigation for safe planetary pin-point landing. In 3rd European Conference for Aero-Space Sciences (EUCASS 2009), Versailles, France. EUCASS2009-148. [ bib | .pdf ]

Simões, L. F., Pais, T. C., Ribeiro, R. A., Jonniaux, G., and Reynaud, S. (2009). Search methodologies for efficient planetary site selection. In IEEE Congress on Evolutionary Computation (CEC 2009), pages 1981-1987. [ bib | DOI | .pdf ]


Apoio FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia no âmbito da Unidade de Investigação CTS - Centro de Tecnologia e Sistemas, referência UID/EEA/00066/2013