We propose to implement two new sensing modalities comprising the Multimodal Agile Ranging and Velocimetry INstrument (MARVIN) using a novel acousto-optic Structured Light Imaging Module (SLIM) previously developed under the NASA PIDDP program for planetary rover navigation and geomorphology.
Based on an acousto-optic illumination engine, SLIM consumes only 10-20W of power, weighs less than a kilogram, could fit in a shirt pocket, and uses space-proven components without moving parts to rapidly generate and precisely control laser illumination patterns.
Through modifications of SLIM hardware and algorithms, MARVIN enables triangulation-based wide-field active 3D imaging of nearby scenes with mm-scale resolution at distances up to 10m even in the presence of full sunlight, as well as multi-beam time-of-flight (ToF) cm-resolution ranging and Doppler velocimetry at distances of hundreds of meters, or potentially even further. MARVIN can switch between the two modes simply by moving a lens.
MARVIN computes each range point in parallel and independently, is robust across a wide range of ambient lighting, textures, and albedos, and is computationally simple, increasing rover autonomy, even in low light, and reducing traverse and science operation down-times. MARVIN’s low-SWaP and agility also benefit EDL, station keeping, terrain mapping, and proximity operations. MARVIN could be used as a faster, more robust, high-precision primary range sensor for exploration of the Solar System, including Mars, the Moon, Ocean Worlds, and asteroids.
The Phase I effort included feasibility and benefit studies, simulations and algorithm development, noise and performance analysis, a proof-of-concept lab demonstration of many-beam MARVIN ranging, and an optomechanical design, bringing MARVIN to TRL3. The Phase II effort aims to advance this design, develop requisite electronics, implement a MARVIN prototype, and test it on the mast of a JPL rover, advancing MARVIN from TRL3 to TRL4.
MARVIN aims to make planetary surface traverses faster and more autonomous. In addition to enhancing rover mobility, MARVIN could enhance instrument arm placement and serve as an agile and versatile range sensor for spacecraft landing and proximity operations, including on future human missions to Mars and the Moon. An asteroid orbiter like OSIRIS-Rex could use MARVIN for station keeping,TAG, and to map topography. As a science tool, MARVIN could be used to characterize geological surfaces and with SWIR wavelengths even detect water on Mars.
Due in part to agile illumination control, tolerance to diverse lighting, high throughput, no moving parts, and low SWaP, MARVIN technologies could also prove transformative for a number of applications in space and on Earth, including robotic simultaneous location and mapping, aerial surveying, aircraft and spacecraft landing and docking systems, as well as autonomous vehicle navigation.