Predicting In-Flight Air Density for More Accurate Landing

Knowing the air density outside a spacecraft vehicle can have a substantial effect on its angle of descent and ability to hit a specific landing spot. A new onboard algorithm provides important real-time data to aid in steering the craft.

The algorithm runs in-flight to estimate what the atmosphere outside is like. Prior knowledge about the vehicle’s motion is used to estimate the air density, inform decisions in flight, and make minor alterations to a course.