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NASA Has Developed Sensor Suite for Exact Robotic and Crewed Missions on Moon

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NASA-developed sensor suite that will allow robotic and crewed missions to land precisely on the lunar surface within an area about half the size of a football field. This could range from the rim of Shackleton crater to permanently shadowed regions on the Moon.

This will be technologies that will ensure exact and soft landings on the Moon and other worlds will fly on Blue Origin’s next New Shepard suborbital rocket launch. This will take place at 11:00 a.m. EDT Thursday, Sept. 24.

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The webcast of the company’s launch will go live at 10:30 a.m. and air on NASA Television and the agency’s website. The rocket’s flight path will be in accordance with the lunar landings, which will be providing a unique opportunity to mature sensors and algorithms for potential use on Artemis missions.

This public-private partnership is a great example of NASA and industry working together on common goals – to explore more of the Moon and eventually land humans on Mars,”. Blue Origin was selected for a Tipping Point award in 2018 by STMD to help increase access to planetary surfaces. – Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD)

The terrain relative navigation that incorporates software developed by Draper of Cambridge, Massachusetts will be started off by an emulated landing sequence on New Shepard.

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Terrain relative navigation will make use of proven sensors. Mounted to the rocket will be an inertial measurement unit and a camera. The software will use the real-time information from the camera, its “eyes,” to compare with the pre-loaded surface maps to determine the rocket’s exact location.

The technology, which is similar to NASA’s Perseverance rover will use to land on Mars in February 2021, could land spacecraft precisely on another world. The new sensor uses a laser to enable precise soft landings on the Moon and Mars.

Navigation Doppler lidar sends laser beams to the surface and detects the reflected returns to determine the lander’s velocity and altitude. The data from this test will let the team model how it will function during lunar landing and how it is affected by a planet’s atmosphere – in this case, Earth’s.

“Brent Sherwood, Vice President of Advanced Development Programs, Blue Origin said that, “Lots of other software runs in the background, integrating the different systems, figuring out what needs to run next, and, for this test, synchronizing timing with the Blue Origin flight computer. It’s all crucial so the system can run autonomously and provide us with data that we can analyze post-flight.”

Preparations for a suborbital flight test NASA’s SPLICE descent and landing computer (foreground) and navigation Doppler lidar engineering test unit (background) undergo preparations for a suborbital flight test. Credits: Blue Origin While it won’t fly on this flight, a third SPLICE sensor system called hazard detection lidar scans a surface to create a 3D map of the landing field.

This data allows the SPLICE computer and software to identify challenging terrain and determine a safe landing location for a robotic or human mission to touch down. “Precision landing is critical for a sustainable lunar future that builds a lunar base with successive missions,”

” The capabilities could be integrated into a spacecraft collectively or separately, depending on the destination and mission requirements. Game-Changing Development Program Executive Niki Werkheiser. The program manages SPLICE’s technology development said,”We develop and test new technologies so that NASA and industry can use variations of them based on the mission need,” said “Since a one-size-fits-all solution for landing on other worlds isn’t feasible, we are bringing about flexible, next-generation capabilities that NASA and our partners can apply to a variety of missions.”

A new suite of lunar landing technologies, called Safe and Precise Landing – The Integrated Capabilities Evolution (SPLICE), will ensure safer landings. Future Moon missions could use NASA’s advanced SPLICE algorithms and sensors to target landing sites that weren’t possible during the Apollo missions, such as those places with hazardous boulders and nearby shadowed craters. SPLICE technologies will also enable human landings on Mars.

The SPLICE hardware will briefly experience what it is like to operate in microgravity and the vacuum of space. Next, the capsule – carrying other cargo, including eight Flight Opportunities payloads and tens of thousands of postcards from Blue Origin’s nonprofit Club for the Future created by Artemis Generation students – will separate from the booster and fly free in space. This way the rocket booster will descend vertically back to Earth.

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