Draper Laboratory, an independent, not-for-profit research and development organization, has committed more than $1 million from its internal R&D program to fund the design and development of a guidance, navigation, and control (GN&C) system test bed for use in Next Giant Leap’s commercial lunar mission.
“A critical component of any lunar landing mission is the GN&C,” said Séamus Tuohy, space systems director at Draper. “In addition to landing, we are developing a system that can propulsively hop, and this provides great flexibility to perform regional exploration of the lunar surface.” Draper has enlisted MIT faculty, staff, and students for the development of the GN&C test bed to deliver a future capability to enhance space exploration efforts in the U.S. as well as develop its future space technology leaders.
Next Giant Leap is a contender for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, which requires that contestant vehicles travel at least 500 meters from their initial landing location. The GN&C research underway at Draper will enable Next Giant Leap’s exploration craft to traverse large distances while flying over obstacles. This “hopping” method of transportation has many advantages on a low-gravity body such as the moon.
In addition to Draper’s research and development support and funding, Next Giant Leap anticipates additional income via its offering of corporate sponsorship opportunities.