Astrobotic was selected to receive funding for its LiDAR-based Hazard Detection sensor (LHD) as part of the NASA Flight Opportunities TechFlights solicitation.
This LHD sensor will assist in the safe landing of Astrobotic’s Griffin lander, the largest lunar lander since Apollo’s Lunar Module.
Griffin will be carrying NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, to the lunar surface.This flight opportunity follows a previous LHD testing campaign carried out in the Mojave Desert in 2014 when Astrobotic became the first in the world to successfully demonstrate full terrain relative navigation (TRN) and hazard detection together, aboard a rocket-powered lander.
During that campaign, the LHD detected rocks and craters across the Mojave landscape, then processed these hazards into a comprehensive map. The map was then used to select optimal landing sites and repeatedly execute accurate soft landings.
Although the LHD hazard detection system already has more than seven years and test campaigns in its history, this new flight opportunity will enable the next generation version of the system to get a dress rehearsal onboard a parabolic aircraft and a suborbital rocket-powered vehicle ahead of its use on a flight to the Moon.
“With this latest upcoming terrestrial test campaign, our customers and partners can rest assured they will be flying their payloads [cargo] onboard the most advanced and tested systems in the world for precise, safe lunar landings,” says Ryan Blinn, Director of Future Missions and Technology at Astrobotic.
Because the Moon lacks detailed maps down to a meter or less, hazard detection is critical. Astrobotic’s LHD system can map these hazards down to the centimeter scale and provide the spacecraft with information pertinent to divert its path for a safe landing. LHD testing will take place in early 2023 and will be used to land Astrobotic’s Griffin lunar lander on the Moon’s surface in late 2023.