It was an Australian tracking station that famously transmitted the first footage of mankind's first steps on the Moon, but now it is an Australian company that plans to provide its cutting-edge navigation technology to NASA as it further explores the Earth's only natural satellite and possibly beyond to Mars.
Advanced Navigation, whose technologies are already being used to explore the depths of the ocean and in driverless cars and military vehicles, has received an Australian Government grant to support its Project LUNA.
The Sydney-headquartered company has been awarded a $5.2 million 'Moon to Mars Initiative: Demonstrator Mission Grant' by the Australian Space Agency, which will accelerate development and production of its breakthrough Light Detection, Altimetry and Velocimetry (LiDAV) technology.
The space-qualified LiDAV sensor is called LUNA, meaning Moon in Latin and many Latin-based languages but in this case stands for 'Laser measurement Unit for Navigational Aid'.
It is a technology that will be delivered to US-based space systems company Intuitive Machines as part of NASA’s ongoing Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program.
Project LUNA will ultimately be demonstrated on board Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander during the final descent en route to the lunar surface. Following this demonstration, Advanced Navigation’s LUNA technology will be offered commercially for integration into landers from 2025-26.
The technology will improve the safety and reliability of autonomous landing manoeuvres, enable reliable navigation on the lunar surface, and serve as a catalyst for autonomous space exploration and transportation.
"We are humbled the Australian Space Agency has awarded Advanced Navigation a Demonstrator Mission Grant as it represents a pivotal milestone in the company's trajectory, as we embark to be among the first Australian technologies to reach the Moon," says Advanced Navigation CEO and co-founder Xavier Orr, who along with co-founder Chris Shaw won the 2023 Sydney Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and was featured in the 2023 Australia's Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs list.
"Our work with Intuitive Machines will enhance Australia’s sovereign Space capabilities, further unlock the commercial Space economy, and ignite a new era of innovation as we push the boundaries of scientific discoveries and exploration on the Moon and beyond."
Enrico Palermo, the head of the Australian Space Agency, says projects being supported by this grant show just some of the many ways that space technologies are improving how we live and how we work.
"By helping Australian organisations like Advanced Navigation to develop their space heritage, they can break into new markets and supply chains and take their innovative Aussie technology to the world," Palermo says.
"That will help them to grow, keep their ideas in Australia and generate more employment opportunities here."
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