Astrobotic has selected Navigation Doppler Lidar (NDL) from Psionic for their mission in late 2023 to deliver NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the South Pole of the Moon. The NDL serves as a critical sensor element as part of the Griffin Lander’s Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GN&C) system to ensure a safe, precise landing. In June 2020, NASA awarded a $199.5 million contract to Astrobotic under its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.
“Griffin is a vehicle unlike any other and it’s playing a critical role in our return to the Moon by delivering VIPER to the lunar South Pole,” said Daniel Gillies, Mission Director at Astrobotic. “We are excited and honored to have been selected to deliver VIPER the Moon. A safe, precise landing is critical to reach the target areas at the South Pole where water ice is most abundant, and we’re confident that NDL will help us achieve that precision landing in combination with our own suite of terrain navigation and hazard detection sensors.”
NASA’s VIPER is being designed to search for water ice on the moon — a vital preparatory mission that will guide the planned landing sites for the next Artemis human missions to the Moon. NDL was developed by NASA over 10+ years for precise, safe landings on the Moon and in other challenging environments.
The Astrobotic NDL unit will be built by Psionic, which is NASA’s licensee for the underlying patents for NDL. Several NASA-designed NDL payloads are being used to help robotic spacecraft land on the Moon. A separate, NASA-designed and provided NDL is also flying on the Astrobotic Peregrine mission in 2021.
“The accuracy and confidence NDL provides is critical given where these missions are headed,” according to Steve Sandford, founder and CTO of Psionic. “The NDL is an important link in the navigation sensor chain Griffin will use to meet NASA’s stringent landing requirements.”
NDL provides ground-relative range and velocity-vector accuracies, precise vehicle coordinates, and other measurements necessary for safe, pinpoint landings, which are critical in narrowly defined landing zones such as those at the South Pole.