NASA partners with Firefly Aerospace for lunar GNSS mission

March 8, 2023  - By

As a part of the NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, Firefly Aerospace will land the Blue Ghost lander on the lunar surface in 2024. Onboard, the Lunar GNSS Receiver Experiment (LuGRE) payload will determine whether signals from two GNSS constellations can reach the lander and provide precise navigation on the moon for future missions.

During a 12-day mission in the moon’s Mare Crisium basin, LuGRE will obtain the first GNSS fix on the lunar surface and receive signals from both GPS and Galileo. The LuGRE payload is managed by NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation program office.

This payload is a collaborative effort between NASA and the Italian Space Agency to expand the capabilities of Earth-based navigation systems. Navigation engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, have been testing the payload’s GNSS receiver and low noise amplifier. The receiver was developed and built by the Italian company Qascom.

These components will be critical to LuGRE obtaining signals from the GPS and Galileo satellites. To prepare for operating on the moon, NASA engineers used a GNSS simulator to test and configure the payload to accurately receive and process the signals.

The LuGRE payload GNSS receiver and low noise amplifier. (Image: NASA/Dave Ryan)

The LuGRE payload GNSS receiver and low noise amplifier. (Image: NASA/Dave Ryan)

The Goddard team delivered in February the flight hardware to Firefly Aerospace in Cedar Park, Texas, where it will be integrated into the Blue Ghost lander.

Astronauts and rovers traversing the lunar surface will need precise location and tracking data for their exploration endeavors. The data gathered from the LuGRE payload will be used to further develop GNSS-based navigation systems for future missions to the moon.

Image: NASA

Image: NASA

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About the Author: Maddie Saines

Maddie was a managing editor at GPS World.