Featured Image Source: Masten Space Systems
NASA has selected Masten Space Systems to deliver and operate eight payloads aboard its XL-1 Lunar Lander, under that agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. Today, August 26, Masten announced it contracted SpaceX to launch the XL-1 lander to the Moon’s South Pole in 2022.
“Having SpaceX’s proven launch success behind us is not only great for us, but it’s great for our customers,” Masten Chief Executive Officer Sean Mahoney said in a press release. “We share a common vision with SpaceX and that makes this more than a partnership. It’s more like a dream team.”
“We are thrilled to be launching Masten’s Mission One to the Moon in 2022,” SpaceX Senior Director of Commercial Sales Stephanie Bednarek said. “SpaceX was founded upon the goal of extending humanity’s reach beyond Earth, and it’s exciting to take part in a mission with many partners who share the same vision.”
NASA says the mission will 'help lay the foundation for human expeditions' to the moon in 2024. XL-1 will land on the moon with eight payloads that feature nine scientific instruments. The payloads include scientific tools and cargo for the next astronauts that will set foot on the lunar surface. NASA’s CLPS program will pave the way towards the agency’s Artemis program that aims to deploy the first woman and the next man to the moon.
“Under our Artemis program, we are going to the Moon with all of America,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Commercial industry is critical to making our vision for lunar exploration a reality. The science and technology we are sending to the lunar surface ahead of our crewed missions will help us understand the lunar environment better than we ever have before. These CLPS deliveries are on the cutting edge of our work to do great science and support human exploration of the Moon. I’m happy to welcome another of our innovative companies to the group that is ready to start taking our payloads to the Moon as soon as possible.”
The equipment Masten lander is set to transport will enable NASA to investigate the lunar south pole. The payloads the lander will take to the moon include technologically advanced instruments that will assess the composition of the lunar terrain and analyze radiation. The mission will also test out technology to practice landing spacecraft on the moon.
The payloads Masten XL-1 lander will carry are:
Lunar Compact Infrared Imaging System (L-CIRiS) will deploy a radiometer – a device that measures infrared wavelengths of light – to explore the Moon's surface composition, map its surface temperature distribution, and demonstrate the instrument's feasibility for future lunar resource utilization activities.
Linear Energy Transfer Spectrometer (LETS) is a sensor that will measure the radiation environment on the Moon’s surface. The payload also is being flown on a CLPS flight to the Moon in 2021.
Heimdall is a flexible camera system for conducting lunar science on commercial vehicles. This innovation includes a single digital video recorder and four cameras: a wide-angle descent imager, a narrow-angle regolith imager, and two wide-angle panoramic imagers. This camera system is intended to model the properties of the Moon's regolith – the soil and other material that make up the top layer of the lunar surface – and characterize and map geologic features. Other goals for this instrument include characterizing potential landing or trafficability hazards.
MoonRanger is a small robotic rover that weighs less than 30 pounds and will demonstrate communications and mapping technologies. It will demonstrate the ability to move quickly across long distances on the lunar surface with autonomous navigation and without the ability to communicate with Earth in real time. It is a technology that could enable exploration of destinations that are far from lunar landing sites. The MoonRanger will carry the Neutron Spectrometer System, which will measure the concentration of hydrogen in the Moon’s regolith – a possible indication of the existence of buried water.
Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo) is a device to measure potentially accessible resources on the Moon’s surface. It will identify gases coming off a lander during touchdown on the lunar surface to help scientists understand what elements are coming from the lunar surface and which ones are introduced by a lander itself.
Near-Infrared Volatile Spectrometer System (NIRVSS) is a tool to measure surface composition and temperature. The instrument will characterize the variability of the lunar soils and detect volatiles such as methane, carbon dioxide, ammonia and water.
Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA) is a series of eight small mirrors to measure distance and support landing accuracy. It requires no power or communications from the lander and can be detected by future spacecraft orbiting or landing on the Moon.
Sample Acquisition, Morphology Filtering, and Probing of Lunar Regolith (SAMPLR) is a robotic arm that will collect samples of lunar regolith and demonstrate the use of a robotic scoop that can filter and isolate particles of different sizes. The sampling technology makes use of a flight spare from the Mars Exploration Rover project.
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.