069 - Enabling high performance PNT in lunar environment

069 - Enabling high performance PNT in lunar environment


In the context of the renewed interest in lunar exploration, the need for preparing the future user instrument for the new positioning service on the Moon has become very important, in particular for supplementing the current navigation techniques based on inertial sensors and cameras. A significant R&D effort is ongoing towards the development of dedicated lunar infrastructures for enhanced Moon PNT services. The use of 1-way GNSS-like technologies, in particular, is being proposed by Europe throughout the Moonlight/LCNS system initiative. While preparing for the system development, the user equipment side shall be assessed in detail and innovative concepts introduced. In this context, it is of high interest to understand in detail how Moon users could optimally combine the availability of a new GNSS-like dedicated orbiting system (Moonlight) with inertial and visual sensors planned lunar technologies. The synergies between these sensor technologies for lunar PNT applications is recognized as a priority research area, with a very high potential to achieve absolute metre-level accuracies on the Moon, compared to the currently achievable 200 m with Earth ranging or relative navigation on the Moon’s surface.
The ongoing NAVISP EL1-026 and the Moonlight Phase A/B1 study outcomes, at the appropriate development stage, will provide a solid starting point in terms of results and lessons-learned on sensor fusion for lunar applications.

The objectives of the proposed activity are to study, develop and demonstrate innovative PNT techniques at user level for navigation in the lunar environment, combining processing techniques exploiting common sensors adopted on Moon rovers/landers today with the potential future ranging signals from LCNS. Additionally, the activity aims to provide a detailed assessment of the tangible benefits provided by the high performance PNT solution for representative lunar users, such as rovers prospecting for lunar resources and landers aiming for the peaks of eternal light.

The tasks to be performed will include:
- research on the sensor fusion technique for lunar users: 

  • Implementation of navigation techniques with LCNS, using therefore a minimum of one received satellite signal;
  • Integration of LCNS navigation with other lunar navigation techniques, like Celestial, Inertial and Visual Navigation;

- investigate the following building block.

  • literature review, assessment of the state of the art and consolidation of requirements for the targeted use cases;
  • Identification of promising concepts at user level: architecture and algorithms for the aforementioned building blocks and consolidation of the design (with, potentially, combination of multiple concepts);
  • implementation of the outcome of the Study into an actual processing on a representative platform;
  • assessment of the performance in realistic Moon scenarios using mock-ups on Earth and utilizing a subset of GNSS signals to simulate LCNS.

The main outputs of the activity will consist of:
- Data package (reports, algorithms, demonstration results, etc.) providing a complete understanding of achievable capabilities of positioning performances;
- Demonstrator breadboard targeting TRL 4.