Psionic Space2021-01-22T19:09:27-05:00

Psionic NDL test with with Masten Space Systems, Mojave, California, September 2020. [NASA] Precision navigation for landing on planetary bodies Precision navigation for docking and redocking Psionic NDL test with with Masten Space Systems, Mojave, California, September 2020. [NASA] Precision navigation for landing on planetary bodies Precision navigation for landing on planetary bodies Precision navigation for docking and berthing Precision measurement for rendezvous and proximity operations

Psionic Space Applications

Psionic Doppler Lidar delivers superior range and relative velocity measurements over long distances in space to provide operational assurance and reduce mission risk. Smaller and lighter than competing heritage technology offerings, Psionic Doppler Lidar can also reduce fuel, power and volume requirements providing more room for payloads.
Psionic and Astrobotic Technology, Inc. | January 14, 2021

Astrobotic Selects Navigation Doppler Lidar from Psionic for Mission to Deliver VIPER to the Lunar South Pole

Navigation Doppler Lidar chosen for high accuracy and NASA heritage for 2023 CLPS mission to search for water on the Moon

Pittsburgh, PA and HAMPTON, VA, — FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Astrobotic today announced they have 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 unprecedented 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.

Daniel Gillies, Mission Director for Astrobotic’s Griffin Mission One

About Astrobotic

Astrobotic is a space robotics company making space accessible to the world. They develop advanced navigation, operation, and computing systems for spacecraft, and their fleet of lunar landers and rovers deliver payloads to the Moon for companies, governments, universities, non-profits, and individuals. The company has more than 50 prior and ongoing NASA and commercial technology contracts and a corporate sponsorship with DHL. Astrobotic was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA.

Psionic NDL test with with Masten Space Systems | September 10, 2020
Announcement from NASA, September 16, 2020

Lander Simulation Testing Helps Advance NASA Navigation Spinoff

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 >

Our view:

“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

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Psionic Navigation Doppler Lidar was developed by NASA for use in autonomous space vehicles. Today we work with leading public and private space entities to incorporate this technology into their missions.

Navigation for Rendezvous & Proximity Operations

The current procedures for docking in space may seem archaic and in contrast to the image of approaching spacecraft—inching towards each other over the course of a few days, and then when close “grabbing” the other spacecraft with a giant robotic arm.

Archaic in conception perhaps but practical, with the spacecraft traveling at 28,000 km/h they are immensely dangerous. Yet with Psionic Navigation Doppler Lidar mating spacecraft can instantaneously obtain range and vector velocity information with cm-level accuracy.

Psionic Navigation Doppler Lidar can make the docking phase of your operation last a few hours rather than days and—more importantly—increase operational assurance in the process.

Precision Targeting

Today there are nearly 129 million pieces of debris in various orbits around the earth and this number is growing. According to European Space Agency estimates approximately 34,000 are at least 4 inches wide and since they are moving fast—17,500 mph in low-Earth orbit, for example—that even the smallest of them could massively damage a satellite.

Several new ventures utilizing new technologies and new business models are poised to attempt dealing with this problem. The first step in the challenge is identifying then capturing extremely dangerous fast-moving debris in the vastness of orbit.  Psionic technology can provide the precision situational awareness and targeting to enable the destruction individual pieces of debris without affecting nearby satellites

Developing and Testing Navigation Doppler Lidar (NDL)

Navigation Doppler Lidar (23 minutes; transcript)

NASA Langley Research Center’s development of Navigation Doppler Lidar (NDL), the underlying technology used in Psionic Navigation Doppler Lidar. [NASA, February 14, 2020]

Navigation Doppler Lidar (6 minutes)

Testing Navigation Doppler Lidar (NDL) aboard Masten Space Systems’ Xodiac as part of the CoOperative Blending of Autonomous Landing Technologies (COBALT) system. [NASA, June 13, 2017]

Psionic Space

Technical Note: Psionic Navigation Doppler Lidar™ for Landing Precision

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Psionic Navigation Doppler Lidar for Space Applications

Request Application Note >

White Paper: Overcoming Issues in Precise Navigational Methods

Dr. Donald R. Erbschloe, Erbschloe Technical Consulting

Request White Paper >

Psionic Technical Brief: Errors and Uncertainty in GPS Navigation (Excerpt)

Dr. Donald R. Erbschloe, Erbschloe Technical Consulting

View Technical Brief >

Psionic Doppler Lidar Application Development Kit

Includes both the hardware and software needed to develop your application.

Request Datasheet (ITAR Restricted) >

Psionic Navigation Doppler Lidar for Space is a major advancement in safety and precision for landing and proximity operations.


  • Greater safety, accuracy and assurance of mission success in docking, landing, navigating and hazard avoidance
  • Greater revenue through more payloads and payload capacity on each mission

In combination with VBN and TRN, provides increased precision and safety.

Superior to traditional radar

  • Higher precision—Fast (50 Hertz) measurements at range of 5+ km and closing speeds of more than 150kmh
  • Smaller, less mass
  • Insensitive to terrain features
  • Superior signal-to-noise performance for unambiguous ranging, with no false positives
  • No signal ambiguity from transmitted side lobes
  • No signal clutter from jettisoned components
Psionic Doppler Lidar
Range Current Effective Range: > 4 km
Accuracy Range: ± 10 cm @ 4 km Velocity: < 2 cm/sec @ 4 km
Size and weight 4th Gen Chassis: 22.86 cm (9″) L x 12.70 cm (5″) W x 17.87 cm (7″) H; < 6.80kg (< 15 lbs.) 5th Gen Chassis (Reduced SWaP, specifications to come) Telescopes: Customer-specific
Eyesafe Class 1 Laser Operations
Measurement Rate 1Hz-1kHz
Psionic Space
Conferences and Trade Shows

We usually attend several space and satellite events throughout the year—but this is no ordinary year. When in-person events resume, we look forward to meeting you. Until then, please contact us to arrange an in-person meeting >

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