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APLNav System Offers Reliable, Proven Method for Precision Landing
October 3, 2011

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Innovators at NASA's Johnson Space Center have developed a passive optical terrain navigation method applicable to precision landing on Earth as well as other planetary bodies. The Autonomous Precision Landing Navigation (APLNav) system renders an expected shaded terrain image for a region on a planet's surface based on a spacecraft's estimated inertial state. Passive optical digital cameras create images of the planet's surface, correlate the images to the rendered Digital Elevation Model, then update the spacecraft's inertial state based on the results of the image correlation. The system is derived from the digital scene-mapping and area correlation navigation method that has been in use with cruise missiles for decades. The APLNav system provides a simple, cost-effective, reliable, and proven method for planetary landing applications. This software may be released for U.S. Government purposes only.


  • Economical: Uses low-cost, commercially available digital cameras with characteristics comparable to flight units
  • Precise: Eliminates need for external navigation aids such as navigation satellites, beacons, lidars, and radar systems
  • Flexible: Supports landing under a wide range of surface illumination conditions, including low-lighting conditions


  • Precision landing

Licensing and Partnering Opportunity

This technology is being made available through JSC's Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office, which seeks to transfer technology into and out of NASA to benefit the space program and U.S. industry. NASA invites companies to consider licensing this technology for commercial applications.

Contact Information

If you would like more information about this technology or about NASA's technology transfer program, please contact:

Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office
NASA's Johnson Space Center
Phone: 281-483-3809
E-mail: jsc-techtran@mail.nasa.gov

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Page Last Updated: January 16th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator