Research Projects

All the research projects that the Space Technology Centre has been involved in are described below:

PANGU Asteroids and Whole Planet Simulation

Simulated Asteroid

The PANGU Asteroid and Whole Planet Simulation study extended the capabilities of the PANGU tool to include the realistic generation and visualisation of complete asteroids and the simulation of entire planets to be viewed from orbital distances.

Additional research to enhance the rendering speed of PANGU and to increase the size of terrain that can be modelled within PANGU was successfully completed. This work introduced support for rendering models with the ROAM algorithm and the addition of a dedicated memory management system to allow unused portions of a model to be unloaded from memory.


Various ESA planetary lander missions (e.g. Euromoon 2000) were being considered that required a lander guidance system. A vision-based navigation system had been proposed and prototyped in the ESA 3D Planetary Modelling study led by Joanneum Research (Austria), in which Steve Parkes was involved. The prototype used a physical terrain mock-up and a robotic arm holding a camera, to simulate the descent of a lander towards the lunar surface. Steve Parkes realised that an alternative simulation method was required because of the cost and time taken to build different lunar surfaces. A computer simulation of the lunar surface and camera could be used to provide realistic lunar surface images for testing the vision-based navigation system. Steve received a small contract from ESA to prove the concept and a prototype planet surface simulation system was developed. LunarSim showed that realistic cratered terrain models could be created using fractal techniques. An almost unlimited variety of lunar surfaces could be generated automatically and used for extensive testing of vision-based lander navigation systems.


The LIDAR-LAPS research is being undertaken as a sub-contractor to EADS Astrium SAS. The aim of this work is to extend PANGU scanning LIDAR sensor to support a different type of scanning pattern from the LIDAR-GNC and LIDAR-ILT projects. The LAPS system consists of a laser which emits pulses every 100 μs asynchronously to two oscillating mirrors controlling the beam direction in azimuth and elevation. The two mirrors scan the field of view driven by independent triangle waves. As with the LIDAR-GNC and LIDAR-ILT projects, the sensor simulation takes into account spacecraft motion during the scanning interval.


PANGU simulated Martian surface

PANGU simulated Martian surface

The LIDAR-GNC research was done as a sub-contractor to EADS Astrium SAS. The aim of this work was to extend PANGU to cover realistic Martian surface generation including boulders and sand dunes and to simulate a scanning LIDAR sensing the Martian terrain. The LIDAR sensor simulation is capable of simulating a range of scanning LIDAR instruments and takes into account spacecraft motion during the scanning interval. PANGU models and the LIDAR simulation have been integrated in a guidance and navigation control system prototype by Astrium.

RMAP Standard

Details coming soon.


Details coming soon.

SpaceWire-10X Testing

The aim of the SpaceWire-10X Testing project is to test the SpaceWire-10X Router ASIC device under various conditions to ensure there are no problems with the device. This involves the development of a test environment in which it is possible to stress the SpW-10x's operation. Appropriate tests have been devised and these will be performed and the results analysed.

HARVD: High-integrity, Autonomous, multi-range RendezVous and Docking

HARVD VRML Satellite Model

HARVD VRML Satellite Model

The overall objective of the HARVD (High-integrity, Autonomous, multi-range RendezVous & Docking) study is to develop a European capability for autonomous orbital rendezvous and docking. The detailed design of a high-integrity, autonomous, multi-range, rendezvous and docking control system is being developed for future solar system exploration missions. A demonstration system including the onboard GNC hardware and software components is being developed. Its real-time performance and autonomous operation is being evaluated covering far-field to terminal rendezvous. Two types of mission are being examined: planetary sample return and associated rendezvous of return capsule with orbiting Earth return vehicle, and in-orbit servicing of both cooperative and non-cooperative spacecraft.

SpaceWire CODEC Support

The SpaceWire CODEC Support project is aimed to provide updates and support for end users of the SpaceWire CODEC IP. The IP is a synthesisable VHDL model of the SpaceWire data strobe encoder decoder maintained by the University of Dundee, originally developed under the SpaceWire router ASIC project.

NPAL: Navigation for Planetary Approach and Landing

Feature tracking across a sequence of planetary surface images

The University of Dundee worked with EADS Astrium, Galileo Avionica, INETI and SciSys to develop an intelligent camera for vision-based navigation of a planetary lander. This research funded by ESA within the Navigation for Planetary Approach and Landing (NPAL) study was led by EADS Astrium in France. The camera unit performs image processing to select image feature points and to track them from frame to frame. With knowledge of the tracks of several feature points and the linear and rotational acceleration of the spacecraft, provided by an inertial measurement unit, it is possible to reconstruct the path of the spacecraft and to determine its position and orientation relative to a planet’s surface.