NASA selects Firefly Aerospace to deliver 10 experiments to the moonPeter Brown | February 05, 2021
NASA awarded Firefly Aerospace $93.3 million to deliver a suite of 10 science investigations and technology demonstrations to the moon by 2023.
The cargo will be delivered to Mare Crisium, a basin on the moon’s near side, to investigate the lunar surface conditions and resources. Mare Crisium is a more than 300 mile area of the moon and will provide insight into the moon’s loose, fragmented rock and soil (called regolith), properties, geophysical characters and interaction of the solar wind and Earth’s magnetic field. The investigations will be a prelude to help prepare for a return to human missions on the lunar surface, NASA said.
As the sixth award for lunar surface delivery under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, a program to secure commercial partners to land science and technology payloads on the lunar surface, these unmanned missions to the moon are a key aspect of NASA’s Artemis program.
The first delivery will be provided using its Blue Ghost lander, which Firefly Aerospace developed at its Cedar Park facility, which will also house the integration of NASA and any non-NASA payloads.
“The payloads we’re sending as part of this delivery service span across multiple areas, from investigating the lunar soil and testing a sample capture technology, to giving us information about the Moon’s thermal properties and magnetic field,” said Chris Culbert, manager of the CLPS initiative at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The 10 payloads that Firefly Aerospace will launch to the moon include:
- Regolith Adherence Characterization — will help to determine how lunar regolith sticks to a range of materials exposed to the moon’s environment.
- Next Generation Lunar Retroreflectors (NGLR) — will serve as a target for lasers on Earth to precisely measure the distance between Earth and the moon.
- Lunar Environment Heliospheric X-ray Imager (LEXI) — will capture images of the interaction of Earth’s magnetosphere.
- Reconfigurable, Radiation Tolerant Computer System (RadPC) — will demonstrate a radiation-tolerant computing technology.
- Lunar Magnetotelluric Sounder (LMS) — will characterize the structure and composition of the moon’s mantle by studying electric and magnetic fields.
- Lunar Instrumentation for Subsurface Thermal Exploration with Rapidity (LISTER) — will measure heat flow from the interior of the moon.
- Lunar PlanetVac (LPV) — will acquire lunar regolith from the surface and transfer it to other instruments for testing.
- Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume Surface Studies (SCALPSS 1.1) — will capture video and still images of an area under the lander from when the engine plume first disturbs the lunar surface through engine shutdown.
- Electrodynamic Dust Shield (EDS) — will generate a non-uniform electric field using high voltage of multiple electrodes.
- Lunar GNSS Receiver Experiment (LuGRE) — will extend the reach of GPS signals and be the first to discern GPS signals at lunar distances.