Lidar images of the International Space Station taken by a technology demonstration called Laser Infrared Imaging Sensors, or LIRIS, mounted on ATV Georges Lemaître as it approached the Station for docking on 12 August 2014.
The image on the left shows how far each element of the Space Station is from ATV-5 with arbitrarily chosen colours corresponding to their distance from LIRIS. The Russian service module to whichGeorges Lemaîtredocked shows up in green at a distance of 30 m, while the Soyuz was 15 m away and shows in yellow. The main truss of the Station is represented in purple at 40 m. The image on the right was created from the same data but shows how much light was reflected at each point. The Station’s retroreflector used for ATV’s normal laser docking sensors shows up brightly, just as the designers intended.
LIRIS is a test of European sensors technology in space to improve the autonomous rendezvous and docking that ATVs have performed five times since 2008. ESA’s goal is to be able to perform an automated rendezvous far from home, perhaps in Mars orbit or with an uncooperative target such as an inert object.