Robotic Lake Lander Test Bed for Autonomous Surface and Subsurface Exploration of Titan Lakes

We introduce a robotic lake lander test bed that can be operated either stand-alone or as part of a Tier-Scalable Reconnaissance mission architecture to study and field test an integrated hardware and software framework for fully autonomous surface and subsurface exploration and navigation of liquid bodies. The lake lander is equipped with both surface and subsurface sensor technologies. Our particular focus is on Saturn’s moon Titan with its hydrocarbon lakes with respect to future missions involving lake landers (e.g., Titan Mare Explorer (TiME) mission), potentially in conjunction with balloons/airships and orbiter-support overhead. This test bed serves as an analog to a Titan unpiloted surface vessel equipped with its own onboard real-time navigation and hazard avoidance system, surface and subsurface exploration sensor suite, and autonomous science investigation software system. As such the test bed helps map out a technical path toward true autonomy for the robotic exploration of the Solar System.

[Issued patent(s): U.S. 6,990,406, U.S. 7,734,063, and U.S. 7,742,845]