Every major landing mission since Surveyor has used radar as the key component for delivering range and velocity information. The JPL TDS proved highly successful but was not designed to be reproducible. It may be possible to reconstruct the TDS out of spare parts from the original mission for the 2020 mission to MARS, but this approach will be expensive and for further missions is likely cost prohibitive, as well as size prohibitive for smaller class missions. A reproducible, low-cost landing radar system would fill an immediate need for upcoming landing missions, including Discovery class through flagship concepts like a Europa lander, and Ku-band would be appropriate for all solar-system bodies, including lunar landing, due to its ability to operate independent of sun illumination, lack of need for coherent surface features (required for an incoherent imaging system to measure horizontal velocity), and far superior performance compared to lidar in the presence of dust and other particulates. Such a sensor thus solves a key, critical long term NASA need post-Mars2020, enabling numerous classes of planned and future robotic and crewed missions.
The Federal Aviation Administration released its 2016 report on commercial space transportation. They reported the global space industry in 2015 was approximately $324B. Countries, like China, are expanding their programs and the industry is expected to grow. Within this industry, the sector related to launch services was approximately $6B. In this decade, what had been primarily an activity limited to a small sector, mainly governments, has seen the growth of private industry. New companies, such as Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) with its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy platforms, are offering competitive capabilities at lower costs. Other companies, like Arianespace, have offered launch services for decades. Still other companies, such Rocket Lab and Virgin Galactic are expected to offer new platforms. As cost to space becomes lower and more companies enter, there are several efforts to develop reusable launch vehicles. One example is Blue Origins' new Shepard vehicle that demonstrated successful vertical landing capabilities after ascending 100.5 km. A key technology will be a cost effective, reconfigurable landing system for these platforms. In addition to Earth returning launches, the United States, European, China and other governments are planning missions to the Moon, Mars and other planets and bodies. A space qualified Ku-band landing system would have immediate applicability to these efforts.