New Space and Tech

ESA Lunar Landing Camera To Fly To The Moon

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
September 24, 2022
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ESA Lunar Landing Camera To Fly To The Moon
LandCam-X, developed by a Belgian company will take pictures as it approached the Moon to improve the precision and safety of future lunar landings.

ESA has many ambitions for exploring our Moon, and we are setting the groundwork for a lander that can rely on cameras and lidar to analyse lunar terrain and choose the best landing spot – autonomously.

The camera is ready, but nothing beats a real-world test: ESA has chosen Lunar Logistics Services and Astrobotic from a competitive tender to fly the innovative camera, called LandCam-X, to the Moon in 2024 on Astrobotic’s Griffin Mission One.

Smart Moon sensor

The landing camera is somewhat like the cameras used on cars for autonomous parking but in this role the car is a spacecraft traveling at supersonic speeds, and the car park is a specific site of interest on the Moon, a treacherous terrain that can be sunlit or in shadows depending on the time and landing place.

LandCam-X, developed by a Belgian company, will take pictures during landing that will be used for image-processing algorithms that will improve the precision and safety of future lunar landings.

The images will be sent to Earth to test and refine European autonomous navigation systems. European space technology shows leadership in autonomous spacecraft rendezvous and docking, and Landcam-X is developing autonomous lander technology to the aid ESA’s planetary exploration goals in the area of descent and landing. The technologies developed for the high-speed image processing have direct synergies with other applications on Earth such as in warehouses and industrial processes.

Moon economy

ESA selected Lunar Logistics Services, a new space start-up based in France, with its partner Astrobotic, a leader in lunar logistics and space robotics, after a competitive tender to include LandCam-X on Astrobotic’s mission to the Moon planned for 2024.

“LandCam-X is part of ESA’s wider-ranging lunar exploration campaign that includes science, technology and services which will expand Europe’s economy to the Earth’s eighth continent, the Moon” said David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration.

“Lunar Logistics Services is delighted and proud to be selected by ESA for the LandCam-X flight to the Moon. This is a major milestone and achievement for the company,” said Philippe Watillon, LLS founder and President. “I also believe this project is a massive breakthrough for the European space sector with the first-ever delivery of an ESA payload on the Moon through a service contract. This will pave the way for the commercialisation of space exploration in Europe.”

“We are excited to work with LLS and their partner Astrobotic and to use their lunar services for the LandCam-X technology payload, the flight data they will provide will be key to advance new navigation techniques in Europe, and to turn them into products ready for flight,” stated Bérengère Houdou, ESA’s Landcam-X project manager.

“Astrobotic is humbled to be selected by ESA for its first-ever commercial payload delivery contract to the Moon. This is the fourth space agency to choose Astrobotic’s lunar delivery service, and another milestone toward our goal of making the Moon accessible to the world,” said Astrobotic CEO, John Thornton.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.