Rocket GNC Development for Precision Positioning using Visual Navigation: A Simulation-based Study

MSc assignment

RISE was established in September 2021 as a student team comprising members from the University of Twente (UT) and the Vrije Universiteit van Amsterdam (VU). The primary objective of RISE's Project Alpha is to achieve a propulsive landing on a designated platform, enabling reusability for multiple flights with minimal refurbishment. In the aerospace industry, accurate rocket positioning relies on high-grade Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) receivers, Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) for accurate dead-reckoning and Radar for the landing phase. However, for student teams like RISE, constrained by limited budgets, achieving precise positioning during rocket landings presents a significant challenge.

In response to this challenge, using large ARTags placed on dedicated landing sites emerges as a promising solution. By painting these markers near the landing site, student teams can potentially enhance the accuracy of their rocket positioning algorithms while descending. This approach offers an accessible and practical alternative to the sophisticated equipment employed by larger aerospace companies, empowering student teams to overcome budgetary constraints and advance their capabilities in rocketry and space engineering.

The goal of the thesis project is the development of a Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) module which is coupled to a 6 Degrees of Freedom (6DoF) simulation environment for RISE's Alpha rocket to simulate the ascent, descent and landing of the rocket with a predefined parabolic trajectory.

Key objectives:
• Modelling of reference frames, forces and moments acting on the rocket during ascent and descent
• Modelling of the control surfaces & mechanisms which are found on the rocket
• Modelling the simulation environment
• Implementation of a controller for rocket attitude control
• Implementation of a sensor fusion algorithm for positioning with data gathered from onboard and external sensors