Development of the LIDAR flight model for MMX is complete!

The LIDAR (LIght Detection And Ranging) laser altimeter is one of the 13 instruments that will be onboard the Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) spacecraft. The LIDAR is tasked with continuously measuring the distance (altitude) between the spacecraft and the surface of the Martian moon, Phobos, by measuring the round-trip time between the laser emission and receiving the reflected light from the surface. This information will help acquire precise spacecraft trajectory, and also gain topographical information globally across Phobos to provide the base information for the moon’s shape and the origin of the topology. The gravitational field of Phobos is also expected to be determined by comparing the predicted and measured trajectory of the spacecraft, accurately measured with the LIDAR.

The initial design of the LIDAR began in March 2019 with the development manufacturer, NEC Corporation. The design review and the engineering model (EM) followed, along with a variety of development tests that led to the Post Qualification test Review (PQR) and Pre-Ship Review (PSR). With these passed, the flight model (FM) was completed in January 2024. In February 2024, the completed LIDAR FM was transported to Mitsubishi Electric Cooperation Kamakura Works, who are constructing the MMX spacecraft. After a visual inspection, the LIDAR was officially handed over!

From here, the LIDAR will be integrated into the spacecraft’s exploration module and used in the comprehensive testing of the full spacecraft system.

Figure: Schematic view of the MMX spacecraft, showing the configuration of the instruments. The LIDAR can be seen in the “From-Z” image.

LIDAR Principal Investigator (PI) SENSHU Hiroki
Chiba Institute of Technology

With collaboration from our team, the chief manufacturer, and many others, we were able to deliver the LIDAR flight model. Now that we have a good instrument, the responsibility transfers to our science team to create good scientific results! I am looking forward to unravelling the history of Phobos from the motion of the spacecraft and the state of the moon surface.

NEC Corporation IKUSE Yasuyuki
NEC Corporation Aerospace Business Division, Sensing Product Department, Optical Application System Group

Despite challenges in the development such as the difficulty in improving the performance of the laser oscillator, a key component of the LIDAR, and evaluation of the characteristics of the newly developed integrated circuit (chip name: LIDARX), we are pleased that we could successfully deliver the LIDAR-FM! We hope that the MMX LIDAR will contribute to the future scientific achievements.