The NASA niche market for self-sensing tethers is focused on missions featuring robotic exploration, especially the Axel rover. NASA is planning specific missions including Mid-Size Rovers, Astrobiology Field Lab, Network Landers, Europa Explorer, and Titan-Enceladus Explorer, to bring back samples from comets, asteroids, and the lunar south polar basin, and Mars. Market opportunities for tethered rovers within NASA often coincide with Mars exploration missions that are launched every 26 months. Prime contractors supporting NASA's rover missions include Lockheed Martin Astronautics. While Luna's technical development of self-sensing tethers is focused to meet the specific needs of NASA as an early adopter, there is a wide and diverse market for self-sensing tethers to support robotic inspection in challenging Earth environments.
Luna is already actively engaged the market for short-range distributed fiber optic shape and position sensing though minimally invasive surgery (MIS) development efforts with Intuitive Surgical, Inc. and Philips Medical. Luna's preliminary long-range sensing capabilities has also generated interest among makers and end-users of robotic exploration tools, UUVs, pipe crawlers, and articulated borescopes. These potential customers, including industry leaders in aerospace, NDT inspection, and ship building, have all expressed the need for 3D shape and position sensing in a lighter, more flexible, durable, and most importantly, longer form. Phase I efforts have proved the feasibility of making continuous shape measurements out to lengths up to 100m. The upgraded acquisition system and software, integration into a rugged cable, in-the-field testing gained through the Phase II effort will move this technology closer to industry adoption.