Google Lunar X Prize competitor Moon Express completed demonstrations of the miniature radar the company plans to use to assist the firm’s robotic vehicle in touching down safely on the Moon. By providing NASA with data on the radar demonstration, Moon Express successfully completed the first task in NASA’s Innovative Lunar Data Demonstration (ILDD) program. That task was worth $500,000.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Moon Express is seeking to earn $10 million as part of the ILDD program, an effort led by NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to obtain technical data resulting from industry tests of various components of robotic lunar vehicles and landing systems. NASA officials plan to use that data to aid in the development of future manned and robotic spacecraft.

The miniature radar being used by Moon Express was developed initially by Stellar Exploration Inc. of San Luis Obispo, Calif., under a NASA Small Business Innovative Research contract. The radar is designed to reduce the size, weight and energy requirements while providing critical information needed for autonomous landing. Moon Express engineers continued development of the radar and tested from April through July in the laboratory and on an airship traveling down the California Coast.

Moon Express, one of three teams selected by NASA to participate in the ILDD program, is competing in the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize competition, a race to send the first commercial spacecraft to the Moon, travel 500 meters and send images to Earth.