Luna Resource-1 Lander

The Return to the Moon

Only twelve men have ever landed on the Moon and none since Dec 14, 1972 – but that hasn’t stopped people from dreaming of a lunar based colony. In February 2017, Neptec UK was awarded a contract to design and to prototype a landing sensor for an unmanned mission to the south polar region of the Moon, the first in a series of launches that could see the first habitat on the Moon.

The Mission

Scheduled to launch in 2021, the “Luna Resource-1 Lander” (Luna 27) mission is being undertaken in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA)  and UK Space Agency (UKSA). ESA provides the PILOT (Precise Intelligent Landing using On-board Technology) system for precision and safe landing and the PROSPECT (Platform  for Resource Observation and in-Situ Prospecting in support of Exploration, Commercial exploitation and Transportation) surface package for searching for water.

The Luna 27 mission will send a lander to an unexplored area at the Moon’s south pole to look for water and search for the necessary raw materials to make fuel and oxygen. This initial landing will be unmanned, but if sufficient water and resources are located, subsequent missions could be manned and eventually lead to the establishment of a permanent human settlement.

LEIA (LIDAR for Extra- terrestrial  Imaging Applications)

Neptec’s LEIA is being developed by a team of engineers at Neptec UK’s offices and laboratory at Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire. LEIA will be Neptec’s first LiDAR qualified for operation in high Earth orbit. LEIA will feature low mass (5-6 kg) and volume (10 L) and a range from 1 metre up to 1500 metres. It is a critical component of ESA’s autonomous landing navigation system and will be integrated with the Luna Resource-1 Lander for the Luna 27 mission. During descent there will be two re-targeting opportunities during which the LiDAR will direct a pulsed laser beam towards the surface and measure the time of flight of the reflected light. This, along with the scanning system that will compensate for the lander’s motion, will allow 3D mapping of the target landing area, even in the absence of illumination or under changing light conditions. The hazard detection and avoidance software on board will use this data to locate a suitable landing area on the South Pole of the Moon, avoiding uneven terrain and obstacles. When it is safely on the surface the PROSPECT payload will be commissioned and will collect and analyse samples on the lunar surface.