By Tim Ryan

Located in the REaKTOR space in Hampton, Virginia – an innovation hub leading unmanned system industry growth – Psionic stands as a beacon of technological achievement. With a team of almost 50 engineers, Psionic consistently innovates, most recently in miniaturizing their core technology to a photonics integrated circuit chip. This progress is partly funded by NASA technology grants and is projected for production by late 2023.

Psionic’s latest headline: Advanced flight tests to evaluate their Low SWaP Space Navigation Doppler Lidar (PSNDL) at heights and speeds unprecedented for Navigation Doppler Lidar (NDL) tech. This innovative Lidar system promises safer and more accurate lunar and Martian landings.

Securing a competitive NASA Tipping Point award, Psionic is ready to launch the PSNDL’s flight tests. Conducted at NASA’s Armstrong Research Flight Center, the tests on an F-18 and helicopter aim to collect vital data to benefit both NASA and commercial space ventures. The $3.2 million award not only bolsters Psionic’s advancements but, in partnership with Draper of Cambridge, MA, promises a combination of the PSNDL’s precise velocity measurements with Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) tech. This synergy ensures accurate landings, especially in the no-light scenarios of lunar South Pole missions.

Diego Pierrottet, Psionic’s Chief Engineer, believes the tests will “advance the Technology Readiness Level of the PSNDL,” making navigation systems even more dependable for space missions. Psionic’s CEO, Steve Sandford, emphasizes the significance of navigation for precision landing, saying, “Validating the PSNDL through these tests will notably enhance capabilities ensuring the safest descents using state-of-the-art lidar sensors.”

In collaboration with NASA and Draper, analyses hint at the PSNDL and TERCOM’s prowess in ensuring precise lander positioning and various other crucial measurements vital for lunar mission phases.

Psionic was founded in 2016 in Hampton, Virginia, by a team with over a decade of experience with NASA’s Doppler Lidar tech, Psionic leads in Doppler Lidar technology for space, defense, and commercial air uses.

Draper, celebrating its 90th anniversary, partners on various space missions, including NASA’s Artemis program. They develop tech for human spaceflight, space exploration, and commercial ventures to orbit and beyond.