The OSIRIS-REx team has developed an autonomous optical navigation software to sample asteroid Bennu, known as Natural Feature Tracking.
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In late October, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will navigate to asteroid Bennu’s surface for its first sample collection attempt. To do this, it will use an onboard image software known as Natural Feature Tracking (NFT) – a form of optical navigation that is completely autonomous. NFT guides the spacecraft by comparing an onboard image catalog with the real-time navigation images it takes during descent, looking for specific landmarks on Bennu’s surface in order to orient itself. This navigation technique allows the spacecraft to accurately target small sites while dodging potential hazards.