Advancing technology through suborbital flight.
Photo Credit: NASA

The Nighttime Precision Landing Challenge No. 1 invites individuals, teams, and organizations to submit applications for sensing systems that can detect hazards from an altitude of 250 meters or higher and process the data in real time to generate a terrain map suitable for facilitating safe landing of a spacecraft in the dark. NASA intends to provide each of the Winners an opportunity to test their technology on a suborbital vehicle at the end of the challenge.

The Challenge

Precision landing capabilities to deliver spacecraft to safe landing locations in close proximity of targeted exploration sites is a high priority for human and robotic missions to the Moon, Mars, and elsewhere in the solar system.

While significant efforts have gone into the development of precise navigation capabilities, challenges remain with the identification of safe landing sites, especially hazard-free landing sites within shadowed and dark surface regions. In addition, current capabilities do not address the size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) requirements that will help enable upcoming missions.

Risk reduction for such missions will require further advancement of sensing systems for hazard-detection that are smaller, lighter, more cost effective, and straightforward to integrate with a variety of lander vehicles.

Why is it so important to develop the capability to land in the dark on the Moon? This visualization produced by NASA Goddard gives the viewer a good sense of just how dynamic the lighting and thermal environments are in the resource-rich, permanently shadowed regions (PSR’s) near the Moon’s South Pole.

Video credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

The Solution

NASA is interested in advancing spacecraft landing capabilities that include sensing of planetary surface terrains in the dark from an altitude of 250 meters or higher.

The intent of this competition is to demonstrate sensor systems (e.g., radar, LIDAR, optical) capable of generating three dimensional maps during rocket-powered landing maneuvers with enough accuracy and resolution to be used for hazard detection and landing site selection. Successful sensor systems will drive down the size, mass, power, and cost beyond the current state of the art.  

Be sure to review the Technical Guidelines to understand how you can submit a competitive application.

The NASA TechLeap Prize challenges are open competitions designed to discover promising technologies for space exploration, discovery, and the expansion of space commerce. NASA encourages participation from teams who may not have previously engaged in other NASA funding opportunities.

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Photo Credit: NASA