Astrobotic Building 3D Lunar Surface for Testing & Research

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Astrobotic recently announced it has begun work on a high-fidelity 3D test field that will mimic the topography and optical properties of the moon’s surface. 

The lunar surface analogue test site in Mojave, California, called the Lunar Surface Proving Ground, will be used for a variety of test campaigns – from precise lunar landing technologies like LiDAR scanners and navigation algorithms to lunar rovers and other robotic systems. In addition to providing a realistic lunar topography for spacecraft and rover sensors and systems, the test field will offer a facility for simulating the extreme lighting conditions encountered at the lunar poles.

The Lunar Surface Proving Ground will first enhance Astrobotic’s capabilities for testing innovative Entry, Descent and Landing technologies aboard Xodiac, its suborbital rocket lander, the company said in a news release. Xodiac is scheduled to fly four test campaigns over the next year that will demonstrate high-priority EDL systems that could support government and commercial lunar landings. The LSPG will enhance terrestrial testing for planetary landings and further technology development before spaceflight.

The LSPG will debut as the test site for NASA’s Nighttime Precision Landing Challenge, part of the TechLeap Prize, later this year. In the challenge, three winning teams will fly their sensing payloads aboard Xodiac to simulate landing on the moon during the lunar night. TechLeap is sponsored by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program.

“The accuracy of the LSPG’s terrain will allow our customers to test their technologies using the closest physical copy of lunar terrain available on Earth. We already have four Xodiac campaigns booked to fly their payloads over the test field, and we’re excited to see how else we can leverage the LSPG to advance the readiness of other critical technologies,” said Jenna Edwards, director of Propulsion & Test for Astrobotic.

Pictured at top: A sample rendering of Astrobotic’s Lunar Surface Proving Ground in Mojave, California.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.