A navigation doppler lidar (NDL) technology originally developed by NASA was demonstrated on a flight test on September 10 with support from the Flight Opportunities program, part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. With roots at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, the technology was licensed in 2016 by Psionic for both terrestrial and space applications, and both the company and Langley continue to evolve and advance the innovation for upcoming lunar missions.
On the recent flight in Mojave, California, Masten Space Systems flew Psionic’s NDL payload on a vertical takeoff vertical landing (VTVL) system called Xodiac, which simulates some of the maneuvers of a lunar lander. Designed for precision landing in a very tightly defined area—often called the landing ellipse—the NDL transmits laser beams to the ground that bounce back to a sensor, providing information about the lander’s velocity and distance relative to the ground.
The flight test was designed to help Psionic validate their NDL unit’s algorithms and data processing in order to verify the accuracy of these measurements. Data analysis is now underway to determine any modifications needed before advancing to a future closed-loop flight test on Xodiac, in which Masten and Psionic will use the NDL payload to actually navigate the VTVL system.
Read the full announcement on NASA.gov >
“Psionic Navigation Doppler Lidar (PNDL) helps ensure safe, precise lunar landings and will be an important part of upcoming unmanned and manned flights. The Flight Opportunities program enabled us to advance the technical readiness level of PNDL with a representative lunar landing trajectory aboard the Masten Xodiac free flying rocket. During the flight, we acquired valuable data to advance the robustness of the sensor-to-navigation computer interfaces, setting the stage for future missions, and ultimately for Artemis’s manned mission to the moon.”
—Diego Pierrottet, Chief Engineer, Psionic