Artificial Intelligence (AI) robotics and navigation technology innovator Advanced Navigation has announced its ambitions to be the first Australian company to reach the Moon through its development of two unique navigation systems.
Developed from over twenty five years of research with prominent academic institutions, the two unique patented technologies deliver breakthroughs in performance, reliability, size, weight and power consumption.
“The team is absolutely thrilled to see years of research in development progress into successful technology. We look forward to being the first Australian company to reach the Moon in 2024, this will be a huge milestone for us,” said Xavier Orr, CEO and co-founder at Advanced Navigation. “Inertial and robust reference based navigation is a critical capability in space missions, where terrestrial navigation satellite systems, such as GPS are non-existent. Our lightweight technology is estimated to deliver $85 million in value for lunar missions, helping to deliver heavier payloads to further advance research, exploration and commercial developments on the Moon.”
Lighter, more compact flight systems that integrate into the Guidance Navigation and Control (GNC) system are integral in reducing the overall weight of the spacecraft. This helps provide more space for commercial payloads such as satellites, research and test equipment, or personnel.
The heavier the payload the more expensive and complex it is to deliver. Advanced Navigation has said that there are major cost savings to be gained by adopting technology that provides the spacecraft with more payload space. Its systems will enable positioning and accuracy that it claims exceeds the best demonstrated products in the world today, while weighing far less.
The Boreas X90 is a strategic grade Inertial Navigation System (INS) that enables positioning and navigation capable of maintaining extreme precision without using relatively fixed references, such as stars, or requiring base station control telemetry. This is critical for long endurance space missions involving complex orbits and trajectories.
The Light Detection Altimetry and Velocimetry (LiDAV) system uses lasers to measure a significant number of parameters detailing a vehicle’s environment. It can indicate the vehicle’s velocity and position relative to the lunar surface in three dimensions with extreme accuracy and precision. When visual references are unavailable and cameras fail due to lack of light, dust and other obscurities, LiDAV will provide primary navigation input. This technology is critical to perform complex autonomous landing procedures and confidently explore the lunar surface.
Spacecraft autonomy requires extraordinary situational awareness. Although the systems can be used as independent components of the spacecraft’s GNC autonomous stack, they can also be fused. Extensive trials have resulted in accuracy and reliability orders of magnitude greater than current industry benchmarks.
Exploring the lunar surface with Intuitive Machines
Intuitive Machines, a US-based space systems company, provides commercial transportation, communication, and operations services to the lunar surface. The company has three lunar lander missions that will deliver at least two lunar communication relay satellites by 2025. Its customers include NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative and Tipping Point technology opportunity.
Advanced Navigation and Intuitive Machines are following the leadership of the US and Australian governments in the Artemis Accords to undertake safe and peaceful space exploration while gaining a deeper understanding of Earth’s own satellite, the Moon.
“Lightweight precision navigation sensors are essential for delivering science and technology payloads to the lunar surface,” said Dr. Tim Crain, Chief Technology Officer at Intuitive Machines. “These technologies also support data collection for science and resource prospecting once on the Moon.
“Demonstrating this technology in the near term is essential. By 2026, our next phase of lunar lander, Nova-D, will begin delivering 500-1,000 kg of payload to the lunar surface, and we require access to reliable, redundant, and dissimilar sensors for landing.
“It’s imperative that our large lunar payload customers are confident that our systems will deliver the cargo safely and reliably. If we can demonstrate Advanced Navigation’s technology on our current Nova-C landers, we can significantly improve the robustness of landing with Nova-D.
“Given the light weight and capabilities of the Advanced Navigation sensor systems, they are well suited for our Micro-Nova, a mini-extreme mobility lunar vehicle also known as a ‘hopper’. Mass on the hopper is at a premium, but we require sensors that can help us fly to permanently shadowed craters and through lava tubes. We look forward to discovering more of the lunar surface with Advanced Navigation,” Crain concluded.
The future of the next frontier in Australia
The development of the Boreas X90 was supported by the Australian Space Agency through its Moon to Mars Initiative: Supply Chain Capability Improvement Grant.
“Our Moon to Mars initiative provides Australian companies with the opportunity to showcase their knowledge and capabilities in projects that can support NASA in its inspirational endeavours,” said Enrico Palermo, Head of the Australian Space Agency. “Advanced Navigation’s partnership with Intuitive Machines shows this initiative is accelerating Australian companies into international space supply chains.”
“It’s great to see Advanced Navigation continue to disrupt and challenge the status quo. Their latest technology will not only increase Australia’s space capability, but create exciting long-term export opportunities, bolster careers in the STEM sector and inspire the Australian public,” said Palermo.
“This is just one example of how Australia is collaborating with NASA on its Artemis program and is building on over half a century of collaboration in space. The Agency has also reached an agreement with NASA for an Aussie designed, built and operated rover to be included in a future mission.”
Not exclusive to space terrains
This technology will also have several applications on Earth. The technology is designed to aid aircraft during takeoff and landing, particularly in hazardous conditions. It can also measure weather patterns far more accurately to help improve weather detection and forecasting.
In the future, the company believes this technology will guide flying taxis to deliver passengers to their destination safely, navigate autonomous vehicles reliably under all conditions, and build geophysical models from gravitational surveys.