We’ve received a number of inquiries about precision landing and why it’s important to us – shouldn’t we be focusing on high altitude suborbital vehicles? The short version is that it addresses a major market need and provides near-term customers for us as we develop our long-term launch capability. That said, it also is an area that allows us to contribute to our national space program in a tangible manner – and that’s important to us. Internally, it also provides us a mature rocket recovery mechanism that will enable higher tempo launch operations.
In the National Research Council’s recently released Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities report, precision landing was named one of the top technical challenges facing our nation’s space program. In order to mature planetary landing systems to flight-ready status, flight testing is ideal. If a testbed is developed specifically for a given system, a large amount of time is spent fiddling with the nitty gritty details of operations and low-level systems control.
Our goal in this area is to provide a testbed platform for faster and safer demonstration of these systems at lower cost, allowing the engineers developing planetary landing technologies to focus on high level innovation.
To achieve these goals, our GN&C system can now host a third party GN&C system to operate under the watchful eye of our proven software. A third party guidance solution can feed inputs to our control system, effectively controlling the rocket along a planned trajectory. If something doesn’t look quite right, our system will autonomously re-take control of the vehicle, providing a much-appreciated safety net for the systems in testing.
This new functionality will help the nation build increasingly more robust landing systems that will enable space exploration and settlement. We’re excited to have multiple customers interested in this capability and hope to have more to share with you in the near future!