Parafoil Controlled Landing Capsule

Project Summary:

The assignment was to design and build an autonomous parafoil controlled landing system for an Apollo-type space capsule. As a part of a lab class, there were about 30 students split into 6 teams with different responsibilities. I was part of the Instrumentation team and consequently also worked on the Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GN&C) team. The Instrumentation team was responsible for live data transmission from the capsule as it was in flight (3-axis acceleration, altitude, GPS coordinates, etc). The GN&C team was in charge of developing the autonomous functionality and ensuring the capsule could control the parafoil and land the capsule safely at a predefined coordinate.

Intro and Background:

As a freshman student in the engineering program at the University of Wisconsin – Madison you are required to take an Intro to Engineering course. There are many courses offered, but one

Designed and built a scaled model of an Apollo style landing capsule that could navigate to a pre-designated landing area using a steerable parafoil. As part of the Guidance, Navigation, and Control team I programmed the system to be completely autonomous. The capsule used a GPS and accelerometer to track its current location and track its trajectory. Data was streamed live via xBee wireless communication to an application that would report current location, trajectory, and graph velocity and altitude. The capsule also contained an RC override so that it could be controlled by a person.

Technical Highlights:

  • Processing for live data display
  • xBee wireless communication
  • 3-axis accelerometer
    • Used the 3-axis accelerometer to determine velocity in real-time
  • GPS navigation
    • Unit autonomously controlled itself to land at predesignated coordinates.
  • Remote control override switch

Technical Documents and Photos

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