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Virginia Company Licenses NASA Relative Navigation Technology [NASA]

August 20, 2021

NASA and Virginia-based Psionic, LLC, signed a licensing agreement for the use of a NASA 3D light detection and ranging (lidar) technology called Kodiak, originally developed for a cutting-edge mission to robotically refuel a satellite in orbit. The commercial license will allow Psionic to combine the technology’s capabilities with existing lidar developments to enhance the overall design and incorporate it into future missions.

Article excerpts:

Psionic previously licensed a Navigation Doppler Lidar (NDL) from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Lidar is a critical component of a sophisticated relative navigation system for rendezvous and proximity operations, which are required for docking a spacecraft to a satellite for servicing or assembly purposes. A relative navigation system also has applications for landing on planetary bodies such as the Moon, or providing the situational awareness needed to capture pieces of orbital debris without affecting nearby satellites.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, developed Kodiak to be used for space detection and ranging, proximity laser ranging, and autonomous vehicles. The Kodiak 3D lidar will be used by the On-orbit Servicing Assembly, and Manufacturing 1 (OSAM-1) mission which will robotically refuel Landsat 7, a government-owned satellite.

The lidar provides low cost and highly reliable 3D lidar images in nearly any lighting condition, which increases the flexibility in timing servicing activities in different orbits. Lidar counts the amount of time that elapses between sending a laser pulse and receiving it back. Because the speed of light is known, this technique lets scientists and engineers approximate the distance to any given object. Kodiak is unique in that it employs high-speed scanning and takes very accurate measurements. The lidar creates a realistic 3D reproduction of the object, which allows data collectors to produce precise measurements of the target’s relative attitude and position.

“Anything that flies up to something else can use this system,” said Nathaniel Gill, principal investigator for the Kodiak lidar on OSAM-1. “It’s flexible to be tuned to different missions, and every mission is different.”


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