NASA’s water-scouting CubeSat poised to hitch ride to lunar orbit on Artemis I – Devdiscourse

Science

NASA’s Lunar IceCube, a shoebox-sized water-scouting CubeSat, will journey to the Moon as a secondary payload on the Artemis I mission. Weighing no more than 30 pounds, the spacecraft will have an outsized impact on lunar science.

Lunar IceCube will be deployed from the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Once deployed, the CubeSat will take up to nine months to arrive at its destination and begin orbiting the Moon for six months. Orbiting the moon, the CubeSat will search for water ice and other resources with an infrared spectrometer.

The spacecraft will also study the exosphere – the very thin atmosphere-like volume surrounding the Moon.

Lunar IceCube is one of several CubeSats catching a ride to the Moon aboard Artemis I. Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) Scout is another CubeSat that will be hitching a ride on this mission. Equipped with a high-powered camera, NEA Scout will take photographs of and collect data from a near-Earth asteroid that represents asteroids that may one day become destinations for human exploration.

The payloads will deploy from SLS after the Orion spacecraft separates from the rocket’s Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage that provides the propulsion to send Orion to the Moon.

For the unversed, Artemis I will be the first integrated test of SLS and the Orion spacecraft. During this flight test, Orion will venture thousands of miles beyond the moon over the course of about a four to six-week mission.

NASA is targeting August 29 for the launch of the uncrewed Artemis I mission, with backup opportunities on September 2 and 5. A successful launch on August 29 would result in a mission duration of approximately 42 days.

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