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Ames ICICLES Project Successfully Completes Culminating Demonstrations and Delivers Final Report
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Ames ICICLES Project Successfully Completes Culminating Demonstrations and Delivers Final Report

After a two-year performance period, the Intelligence for Choosing Icy Candidate Landing and Exploration Sites (ICICLES) project has successfully concluded. At project culmination this spring, ICICLES demonstrated the efficacy of novel thermal navigation technologies for landing on planetary surfaces. In two separate field experiments, a proof-of-concept payload (consisting of thermal and visible stereo cameras) was used to map visually-challenging terrain and perform safeguarding analysis and localization. The first experiment utilized a ski lift to simulate landing trajectories and took place on the slopes of Lake Tahoe, which served as an analog for pristine icy surfaces. The second experiment partnered ICICLES with Code TI’s Safe Autonomous Flight Environment 50 (for the notional last “50 ft” of operations - SAFE50) team to fly trajectories over the Ames Roverscape in an Unmanned Autonomous Vehicle (UAV). The Roverscape served as an analog for regolith-covered, dirty-ice, and Lunar-relevant surfaces. During the performance period, ICICLES technology was matured from TRL2 to TRL4. The project just delivered its final report and is slated to brief Science Mission Directorate (SMD) stakeholders at NASA HQ.

BACKGROUND: ICICLES was a two-year, openly competed project funded by SMD. ICICLES developed novel robotic technologies to reduce risk and improve science outcomes when landing on icy surfaces, such as the frozen moons of Europa (orbiting Jupiter) and Enceladus (orbiting Saturn). The project tackled two main technology gaps with its approaches: 1) robust perception of features and hazards on icy surfaces, and 2) incorporating science-valued decision-making in the autonomous Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) process. ICICLES adapted non-traditional sensors such as thermal and multispectral imagers for real-time navigation, and software development for predicting the science value of landing sites from remote sensing information.

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: Concepts for Ocean worlds Life Detection Technology (COLDTech) program, Science Mission Directorate

TEAM: ICICLES: Michael Dille, Terry Fong, Michael Furlong, Arno Rogg, Antoine Tardy, Vinh To, Hans Utz and Uland Wong (PI); SAFE50: Josh Baculi, Xavier Bouyssounouse, Wendy Holforty, and Corey Ippolito


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