ESA will help land NASA’s Viper rover on the moon

The European Space Agency has chosen France-based startup Lunar Logistics Services and Astrobotic, an American lunar logistics and space robotics company, to test its LandCam-X precision landing camera in real-world conditions.

The European Space Agency has decided to capitalize on the boom in the commercialization of space to launch a call for tenders from private service providers in 2021. In early 2022, Logistics Services, a new start-up based in France and specializing in astrobotic, lunar logistics and space robotics, selected LandCam-X to launch on Astrobotic’s Griffin One mission to the Moon (2024).

The LandCam-X camera will be installed on the Griffin lander where the Viper rover will be installed (Volatile substances studied by the Polar Exploration Rover) from NASA. The mission will land on the western face of Noble Crater near the lunar south pole. Viber will be tasked with searching for sources of water ice that could support future human missions to the Moon.

Astrobotic’s Griffin lander will deliver VIPER to the Moon. © Astrobotic, VideoFromSpace

Allow precision landings in complete autonomy

Developed by a Belgian company, LandCam-X will be used in real conditions. Throughout the final stages of the Griffin’s landing, the camera will acquire images suitable for image processing algorithms. The purpose of this operational technical specification is to improve the accuracy of navigation and improve the safety of lunar vehicles during landing flight. The data will be used on the ground to test and refine European autonomous navigation systems and systems to detect and avoid dangerous situations with a view to launching them on future missions to the lunar surface.

New ESA Concept for Robotic Exploration of the Moon

This technology will be used specifically in ESA’s EL3 Heavy Load Lander, which should be able to land in a “human” environment, such as near the Artemis base camp or for a crew of astronauts exploring to deliver cargo, payloads, for example. This system enables adaptive navigation technologies for the EL3.

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