Laser radar for space steering

Lidar test image

This car was not snapped with a camera but scanned by a 3D imaging lidar, the laser equivalent of radar. ESA is developing the sensor as a navigation aid. For missions deeper into our Solar System, the lidar could build up a complete picture of targets such as a boulder-strewn surface. It would be like a stereoscopic imager but remaining reliable in total darkness or blinding sunlight, employed for automated rendezvous and dockings as well as planetary landings. Jena-Optronik in Germany developed a prototype lidar for rendezvous and docking while UK-based ABSL produced one for planetary landings.

Last update: 14 November 2012

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