and September 2008. Technology testing and integration are ongoing, and will become the primary activity of the project in 2009 and beyond. The schedule shows ALHAT validation (TRL 5) in 2010. The technology transition plan shows that the ALHAT project will be infused into the Lunar Lander Projects Office by 2011. Moreover, tests on a free-flying test vehicle could provide TRL 6 prior to Lunar Lander FDR. The committee voiced some concern as to whether adequate consideration has been given to testing requirements that will take this technology to an integration stage such that TRL 6 is actually achievable within the time frame specified.
The schedule risks appear to be acceptable, and there appear to be no high-risk technology obstacles to the project.
Overall, the ALHAT project is well aligned with the needs of the Lunar Lander Projects Office. The technology benefits the Constellation architecture and several elements of the VSE beyond the Constellation Program. The technologies and techniques appear to have an architectural benefit in that the methods will be applicable to any spacecraft landing on planetary surfaces. The approaches are aimed at having a high likelihood of success while minimizing risks and costs.
The primary objective of the Automated Rendezvous and Docking Sensor Technology (AR&DST) project is to reduce risk associated with relative navigation sensors for proximity operations and docking through development, testing, and simulation. The primary customer for the technology is the Orion project, but it is important to the Altair Lunar Lander as well as to future Exploration activities.
The technology developed in this project will provide a vision navigation sensor (or suite of sensors) to aid rendezvous, proximity operations, and docking. The sensor(s) shall have an operational range that spans from 5 km to dock. The current effort is focused on the Natural Feature Image Recognition (NFIR) technique, the Next Generation Advanced Video Guidance Sensor (NGAVGS), and simulation and testing. The Orion program is in the process of a contractor-led AR&D sensor procurement, Vision Navigation Sensor (VNS), of its own that did not include NFIR or NGAVGS by definition, so the transition of this technology to the primary customer is unclear. It appears that the development status of both the NFIR and the NGAVGS is near TRL 5. It is important to mention that the predecessor to the NGAVGS, the Advanced Video Guidance Sensor (AVGS), was operational in some space flight testing on Orbital Express and the Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology mission (TRL 7 to 8 was achieved), and therefore some elements of the NGAVGS may claim a higher TRL.
It is known that non-NASA technology development efforts for AR&D sensors are underway, but it appears that these techniques are not being strongly considered within the AR&DST project. Some of this is due to International Traffic in Arms Regulations concerns since this is a significant area of work outside the United States. The current team is composed of JSC, MSFC, and JPL personnel. There are no university or industry partnerships except for two recently selected SBIR projects.
Critically, other non-NASA efforts may be extremely relevant to the Automated Rendezvous and Docking Sensor Technology project. The absence of university or industry partnerships suggests that these non-NASA potential solutions may be being overlooked.