MDA announced today it had been awarded another lunar landing sensor contract for an undisclosed customer who is participating in NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. We can make an educated guess as to who that customer is.
In August of 2021 MDA won a similar contract to provide lunar landing sensors for two Intuitive Machines missions in 2022, also part of NASA’s CLPS program.
For this mission, MDA was specific in saying that the mission will use its LEIA (Lidar) technology. MDA has two commercial lunar lander sensors, the LEIA (Lidar) and the FLARE (Laser Range Finder). The LEIA lidar is used for landings in more “more treacherous locations.”
Based on this information we can make an educated guess as to which mission the technology will be used on.
Here’s what we know. The mission is part of NASA’s CLPS program. At the moment NASA has three CLPS missions scheduled for 2023. CLPS-4 in November which is a Masten Space Systems mission called Masten Mission 1 using the Xelene lander. CLPS-5 scheduled for mid-2023 and is the Firefly Aerospace Blue Ghost mission (Listen to our podcast). CLPS-6 is NASA’s own VIPER rover mission using the Astrobotic Technology Griffin lander.
Both CLPS-4, Masten Mission 1, and CLPS-6, Astrobotic’s Griffin lander with the NASA VIPER rover, have contracts with U.S. based Psionic who will provide them with their Navigation Doppler Lidar (NDL) system. So that seems to rule these missions out though both of these missions are going to the Moon’s south pole, which has mostly “treacherous locations” to land. That then leaves the Firefly Blue Ghost mission.
While Firefly is currently going through some U.S. regulatory problems, those issues should be rectified soon. The Blue Ghost mission will see the lander attempt to land Mare Crisium which could be considered a less risky landing area and which you would think would use MDA’s FLARE sensor. So while the Firefly mission doesn’t seem to quite fit based on where it will land, it seems to be the only current scheduled mission in 2023 left.
Regardless of which mission MDA has the LEIA lidar on, it’s a positive sign for the company that they are winning these type of contracts.
MDA said in a press release that “the landing sensors for the mission announced today will be delivered from MDA’s Harwell UK office. This technology is a result of a strong partnership with the UK Space Agency, which has supported the development of MDA’s two commercial lunar landing sensors – LEIA (Lidar) and FLARE (Laser Range Finder).”
David Kenyon, Managing Director of MDA UK said, “no one gets to the Moon on their own and strong partnerships are critical to mission success. We are grateful for the collaboration and support from the UK Space Agency on our suite of commercial landing sensors which will ensure that MDA and the UK are at the forefront of a new commercial space race.”