LiDAR Hazard Detection for Safe and Precise Lunar Landing

PI: Andrew Horchler, Astrobotic Technology Inc.

The LiDAR Hazard Detection for Safe and Precise Lunar Landing project aims to test Astrobotic Technology’s hazard detection light detection and ranging (LiDAR) system’s ability to meet stringent requirements for detecting and avoiding rocks, craters, and slopes and selecting a safe landing site. It is designed to detect hazards as small as 15 cm and 10° slopes. During the final 1.5 km, 3D LiDAR point cloud data is processed into a hazard map of the terrain. Data is fused with the spacecraft’s navigation state before a target site is selected and passed to the vehicle’s guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) system.

Technology Areas (?)
  • NA
Problem Statement

Advanced hazard detection (HD) is key to sustainable planetary landings at the most challenging and interesting sites. In particular, HD is needed to safely and precisely land Astrobotic’s Griffin lunar lander and deploy NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) at the South Pole of the Moon, currently planned for 2023. There is also a lack of proven commercial LiDAR hazard detection solutions that combine space-grade hardware, software, and simulation tools. This project’s objective is to reduce risk to NASA’s VIPER Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) mission and future missions by performing real-time, open-loop hazard detection sensor tests with relevant landing trajectories and validate sensor performance in an operational environment.

Technology Maturation

Coupling MDA Ltd.’s downward-looking LiDAR for Extraterrestrial Imaging Applications (LEIA) with Astrobotic’s HD LiDAR sensor could increase reliability and precision. The flight test aims to increase the technology readiness level (TRL) from 6 to 7.

Future Customers

CLPS lunar landers (including Astrobotic and others), Mars and other planetary landers, LiDAR for larger rovers (e.g., lunar terrain vehicle), Rendezvous proximity operations and docking missions for NASA and U.S. Department of Defense

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    TechFlights21 (Dec 2021)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 0 sRLV

Development Team

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