Hovering landers or drones look as though they’re suspended in the air, because you can’t see the vortices caused by the propellers or the heat emitted by the thruster, or whatever mechanism enables the hovering. Well, here you can. And it proves that the act of hovering is anything but delicate.
A private company aims to send a robotic lander and rover to the lunar surface as soon as December of next year on a Falcon 9 rocket.
Astrobotic Technology Inc., a spinoff of Carnegie Mellon University, announced its contract with SpaceX Sunday. The Falcon 9's upper stage will slingshot Astrobotic's spacecraft on a four-day trip to the moon. Astrobotic's lander will enter lunar orbit, align itself and land autonomously, using guidance systems designed for driverless cars.
NASA’s next-gen robotic lander is moving right along, having already completed tests on a first prototype. Now the Robotic Lunar Lander Development Project at Marshall Space Flight Center has received its latest test toy: a sophisticated new propulsion system that will be integrated into an autonomous lander prototype capable of landing softly in airless environments where parachutes and airbrakes won’t do the job.