Deploying and Demonstrating Navigation Aids on the Lunar Surface

NASA is developing lunar navigation beacons to be deployed on spacecraft or the lunar surface to aid in localisation and help future space vehicles determine position, velocity, and time to high accuracy. "Are we there yet?" is a constant question on any journey. As humanity expands its presence on, near, and around the Moon, new systems are needed to provide navigation signals similar those provided by the Global Positioning System (GPS) on Earth. To enable this capability, NASA is supporting research on a range of sensors, architectures, and techniques for providing reference signals to help spacecraft and humans find their way.

Lunar Node 1 (LN-1) is an S-band navigation beacon for lunar applications that was recently designed and built at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). As part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, this beacon is scheduled to be delivered to the Moon's surface on Intuitive Machine's NOVA-C lunar lander on the IM-1 mission in early 2024.

During this mission, LN-1's goal will be to demonstrate navigation technologies that can support local surface and orbital operations around the Moon, enabling autonomy and decreasing dependence on heavily utilised Earth-based communication assets like NASA's Deep Space Network. To demonstrate these capabilities, LN-1's design leverages CubeSat components as well as the Multi-spacecraft Autonomous Positioning System (MAPS) algorithms, which enable autonomous spacecraft positioning using navigation measurements.

Read more in Space Daily article.

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