Moon Express demonstrates Mini-Radar System under NASA’s Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data (ILDD) Program, successfully reaching an important milestone in its commercial lunar data contract
Moon Express, a Google Lunar X PRIZE contender, announced today that it has successfully demonstrated a critical component of its lunar landing technology to NASA under its Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data (ILDD) Program contract. The Moon Express Mini-Radar System promises to radically reduce the cost and mass of the company’s commercial lunar landing system. NASA has reviewed and accepted the Moon Express Mini-Radar data package, satisfying the requirements of the $500K First Task Order under the company’s $10M commercial lunar data contract.
Silicon Valley-based Moon Express was one of only three U.S. companies awarded the first Task Order under NASA’s ILDD program. Under the task order, NASA agreed to purchase data resulting from the successful test and demonstration of the company’s state-of-the-art Mini-Radar sensor, a critical component of its lunar landing system.
Radar provides autonomous landing spacecraft with crucial ranging information to the surface and has been one of the most challenging and high risk elements of all lander systems. Radar systems have also been historically very expensive in terms of dollars, mass and energy. As part of its risk reduction engineering activities, Moon Express initiated a program to continue the development, test and space qualification of an innovative, low cost, low mass, low energy radar concept invented by Stellar Exploration that showed great promise through progressive developments under NASA Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) programs. The Moon Express investment significantly advanced the radar technology toward spaceflight readiness.
The testing and space validation of the Mini-Radar involved multiple units subjected to a series of laboratory and field testing. These included multiple dynamic tests on the Lunar Lander Test Vehicle, developed in partnership with NASA, and long range tests on the Zeppelin ‘Eureka’, owned and operated by Airship Ventures, which took the Mini-Radar on flight tests down the California coast and at the Oshkosh Airshow. Additional environmental testing in thermal-vacuum and vibration chambers proved the ruggedness of the Mini-Radar design for spaceflight.