Engineers race to save Cubesat for moon mission

Engineers race to save Cubesat for moon mission

Engineers race to save Cubesat for moon mission

An illustration of LunaH-Map orbiting the Moon.

An illustration of LunaH-Map orbiting the Moon.
Illustration: Arizona State University

A mission to measure lunar water ice on the moon is jeopardized after the cubesat failed to start its engines shortly after launch. Time is running out now, as the team has until mid-January to repair the spacecraft’s thrusters and give it a second chance at lunar orbit.

NASA’s LunaH-Map, manufactured by Arizona State University, was one of 10 cubesats launched on November 16, 2022 as secondary payloads aboard the Artemis 1 mission. The little probe was one of six cubesats cables for transmitting radio signals to ground teams, in what was a troubling attrition.

Things were looking good for LunaH-Map until the next day, when mission controllers attempted to engage the cubesat’s propulsion system and perform a crucial course-correction maneuver. Despite several attempts, the spacecraft failed to fire its enginespreventing it from carrying out the scheduled lunar flight on November 21. LunaH-Map would use this propulsion maneuver to guide it to its lunar orbit.

Engineers hope to fire LunaH-Map’s thrusters in the coming weeks, allowing the spacecraft to take an alternate route to the moon, said Craig Hardgrove, LunaH-Map principal investigator at Arizona State University, during a presentation on the mission in the US. Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in December, SpaceNews reported. The team has until mid-January to do so, or the probe will never reach lunar orbit.

Data collected so far suggests that a valve in the spacecraft’s thrusters is partially stuck. Engineers are trying to use heating elements in the propulsion system to clear the valve. Should the spacecraft miss its second chance to enter lunar orbit, the mission team will consider sending LunaH-Map to a near-Earth asteroid, Hardgrove said.

While NASA’s Artemis 1 mission was a successits secondary payload hasn’t been so lucky, with most of the cubesats packed up for the lunar mission fails at some point after launch. The mission suffered several delays and engineers were only able to charge four of the 10 cubesats already in the Space Launch System (SLS). rocket ship. NASA was worried that its LunaH-Map cubesat wouldn’t have enough power to make it to the moon and complete its mission of measuring water ice in the shadowy regions of the lunar surface, but this turned out to be no problem. The jammed valve is another story.

It won’t be long before we find out the fate of LunaH-Map once and for all, but hopefully this little probe can make it all the way to the moon.

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