Planet and Asteroid Natural scene Generation Utility (PANGU)
20 Mar 2018





PANGU enhanced simulated image of Deimos

The Space Technology Centre at the University of Dundee, has designed and developed an important test facility for work on planetary landers, rovers, in-orbit rendezvous and other space applications where vision-based navigation is used at part of the spacecraft guidance and navigation control system. The result of over 15 years of research, the Planet and Asteroid Natural scene Generation Utility (PANGU) tool is now being used by ESA, European industry and other space agencies and space industry across the world to help test vision-based navigation systems.
PANGU simulated image of Mars showing the Gale Crater Curiosity landing site region with an atmosphere mode
PANGU is a tool for modelling the surfaces of planetary bodies such as Mars, the Moon, Mercury and asteroids using real and synthetic data. It is also able to model the form of spacecraft, rovers and other artificial devices. It has the ability to generate camera, LIDAR and RADAR images from any position and orientation to support off-line and closed-loop simulations of planetary landing, surface roving and in-orbit rendezvous operations. PANGU is designed to provide a high degree of realism while operating at near real-time speeds on modern desktop PCs with graphics cards that support OpenGL 2.0 and programmable GPU shaders. As an ‘operational’ tool, one that has a direct impact on the reliability of the spacecraft it is being used to help develop, PANGU is designed following ESA rules for software development and has undergone extensive verification and validation.
PANGU enhanced simulated image of Phobos
The validation activities have involved internationally leading planetary scientist is assessing the terrain produced by the PANGU tool and the realism of the features incorporated in that terrain. PANGU is able to model the lunar surface with high fidelity, covering the complete descent and landing of a probe from 100’s of kms away from the landing site to a few metres above before engine cut-out. PANGU is similarly able to model the approach to rotating asteroids. It can be used for surface operations including cooperating rovers and it can be used for in-orbit rendezvous of both cooperating targets and non-cooperating ones, the latter of particular interest for debris removal. PANGU was developed by the University of Dundee for ESA and is now being used on many ESA studies and development projects aimed at producing precise and robust planetary lander guidance systems.​​​
PANGU simulated image of Phobos with Mars in the background