061 - Navigation payload demonstrator of future LCNS satellites

061 - Navigation payload demonstrator of future LCNS satellites


Moon exploration is emerging as the next global strategic priority in space exploration. Several dozens of commercial and institutional missions to the Moon are planned for the coming decades, with a major contribution also expected from ESA (e.g. Orion service module, ESA participation in Gateway lunar station and contribution to multiple lunar robotic missions). In spite of the wide variety of missions planned for the Moon, a lunar navigation (and communication) infrastructure is not yet available.

In light of this, and in close coordination with the HRE Directorate, the Executive has defined a reference Roadmap for Lunar PNT service provision (ref. ESA/PB-NAV(2020)9), consisting of three phases:

  • Phase 1: based on the use of the signals from existing Earth GNSS constellations received thanks to high-sensitive receivers and directional antennas;
  • Phase 2: complementing the use of the Earth GNSS signals with dedicated lunar orbiting ranging satellites, integrated as part of an ESA proposed Lunar Communication and Navigation Service (LCNS); and
  • Phase 3: further enhancing the LCNS system with additional lunar orbiting and surface infrastructure, providing a full Lunar PNT autonomous service and full moon navigation surface coverage.

This vision is also shared with NASA, closely cooperating with ESA in this field.

In line with this roadmap and preliminary system studies being carried out in NAVISP-El1-023, a Lunar Communications and Navigation Services (LCNS) Phase A/B1 system study has then been agreed to be launched as a joint initiative by the Telecommunications and Integrated Applications (TIA), Human and Robotic Exploration (HRE), and the Navigation (NAV) Directorates. The NAV Directorate is in charge of supporting all the PNT related aspects of this study.
In complement to the LCNS Phase A/B1 study, as explained in ESA/PB-NAV(2020)9, there is technical consensus on the importance to implement a pre-development of the most critical associated navigation technologies.

In complement to the LCNS Phase A/B1 system study, this proposed activity will assess in detail the critical technologies associated with the Navigation Payloads on-board the future lunar orbiting satellites, whose main function is to provide additional navigation signals from moon orbit to future lunar users (e.g. moon orbit, moon landing/ascent and moon surface operations).

The activity aims at developing an Elegant BreadBoard, including all functionalities of the future flight payload models identified as critical. This EBB should provide a good indication/reference of the achievable performance for this payload and of the associated mass/power/thermal/size/environmental and interface requirements, as well as confirming the compliance against the LCNS system concept and system performance allocated to the navigation payload. This activity will also define the specifications for the navigation antenna. These are of high interest in order to support the planned LCNS System studies and as a risk mitigation for the implementation of the future lunar orbiting satellites.

The objective of the activity is to:

  • develop of an Elegant Breadboard (EBB) of a generic Navigation payload demonstrator for future Lunar Communication & Navigation System (LCNS) orbiting satellites;
  • understand in detail the critical functionalities of future navigation payloads on-board LCNS satellites, defining associated interface requirements;
  • assess achievable performance with a representative EBB unit;
  • reduce the implementation risk of the future models (EM/EQM/FM) payload equipment by assessing the associated critical technologies in due-time.

The tasks to be performed include:

  • review of LCNS system functional and operational concept and preliminary identification of the functional and implementation constraints for lunar navigation payloads;
  • detailed identification of lunar navigation payload functionalities within LCNS satellites and preliminary assessment of the critical technologies needed;
  • derivation of the Lunar NAV Payload requirements (incl external interfaces).
  • design, implementation, testing and validation of the Lunar NAV Payload EBB;
  • definition of the Design, Development and Validation Plan (DDVP) leading up to Lunar NAV Payload Flight model and associated recommendations applicable to the LCNS System study.

The main results of the activity will provide:

  • a verified and tested representative EBB including Navigation payload critical technologies for future Lunar Communication & Navigation System orbiting satellites;
  • a DDVP for the future NAV Payload Flight model;
  • associated lessons learned and recommendations for the benefit LCNS System study.