• Concept representation of Intuitive Machines Nova-C Lander on the Moon with Advanced Navigation. (Advanced Navigation)
    Concept representation of Intuitive Machines Nova-C Lander on the Moon with Advanced Navigation. (Advanced Navigation)

Advanced Navigation, an Australian innovator in AI robotics and navigation technology, has announced its ambitions to be the first Australian company to reach the Moon through its development of two unique navigation systems. 

In partnership with Intuitive Machines and with the support of the Australian Space Agency, the company’s latest innovations are expected to deliver $85 million in value for lunar exploration. 

The newly developed technology is critical for complex autonomous landing and is designed to allow space vehicles to reliably explore shadowed craters and lava tubes on the Moon.

“The team is absolutely thrilled to see years of research in development progress into successful technology. We look forward to being the first Australian company to reach the Moon in 2024, this will be a huge milestone for us,” Xavier Orr, CEO and co-founder at Advanced Navigation said.  

“Inertial and robust reference based navigation is a critical capability in space missions, where terrestrial navigation satellite systems, such as GPS are non-existent. Our lightweight technology is estimated to deliver $85 million in value for lunar missions, helping to deliver heavier payloads to further advance research, exploration and commercial developments on the Moon.” 

The first of the new systems, the Boreas X90, is a strategic grade inertial navigation system (INS) that enables positioning and navigation capable of maintaining 'extreme precision' without using relatively fixed references, such as stars, or requiring base station control telemetry. Advanced Navigation says this is critical for long endurance space missions involving complex orbits and trajectories. 

The light detection altimetry and velocimetry (LiDAV) system uses lasers to measure a significant number of parameters detailing a vehicle's environment. Most importantly, according to Advanced Navigation, it can indicate the vehicle’s velocity and position relative to the lunar surface in three dimensions with extreme accuracy and precision. When visual references are unavailable and cameras fail due to lack of light, dust and other obscurities, LiDAV will provide primary navigation input. The company says this technology is critical to perform complex autonomous landing procedures and confidently explore the lunar surface. 

Intuitive Machines, a US-based space systems company, provides commercial transportation, communication, and operations services to the lunar surface. The company has three lunar lander missions that will deliver at least two lunar communication relay satellites by 2025.

“Lightweight precision navigation sensors are essential for delivering science and technology payloads to the lunar surface. These technologies also support data collection for science and resource prospecting once on the Moon," Dr. Tim Crain, Chief Technology Officer at Intuitive Machines explained.

“Demonstrating this technology in the near term is essential. By 2026, our next phase of lunar lander, Nova-D, will begin delivering 500-1,000 kg of payload to the lunar surface, and we require access to reliable, redundant, and dissimilar sensors for landing. 

“It’s imperative that our large lunar payload customers are confident that our systems will deliver the cargo safely and reliably. If we can demonstrate Advanced Navigation’s technology on our current Nova-C landers, we can significantly improve the robustness of landing with Nova-D.

“Given the light weight and capabilities of the Advanced Navigation sensor systems, they are well suited for our Micro-Nova, a mini-extreme mobility lunar vehicle also known as a “hopper”. Mass on the hopper is at a premium, but we require sensors that can help us fly to permanently shadowed craters and through lava tubes. We look forward to discovering more of the lunar surface with Advanced Navigation.”

The development of the Boreas X90 was supported by the Australian Space Agency through its Moon to Mars Initiative: Supply Chain Capability Improvement Grant.

“Our Moon to Mars initiative provides Australian companies with the opportunity to showcase their knowledge and capabilities in projects that can support NASA in its inspirational endeavours. Advanced Navigation’s partnership with Intuitive Machines shows this initiative is accelerating Australian companies into international space supply chains," Enrico Palermo, Head of the Australian Space Agency said.

“It’s great to see Advanced Navigation continue to disrupt and challenge the status quo. Their latest technology will not only increase Australia’s space capability, but create exciting long-term export opportunities, bolster careers in the STEM sector and inspire the Australian public."

The new technology will also have several applications on earth, including aiding aircraft during takeoff and landing, particularly in hazardous conditions, and measuring weather patterns to improve weather detection and forecasting.

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