From NASA Goddard: “Lunar IceCube Wins Coveted Slot on Exploration Mission-1”

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Goddard Space Flight Center

July 21, 2015
Lori Keesey
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Lunar Icecube
Morehead State University and Goddard are partnering to create the Lunar IceCube mission shown in this artist’s rendition.
Credits: Morehead State University

Age of Deep-Space Exploration with CubeSats Heralded

Lunar IceCube has won a coveted slot as one of 12 diminutive secondary payloads to deploy during the first planned flight in 2018 of NASA’s next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) and the second for its Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle — an event that scientists say will signal a paradigm shift in interplanetary science.

Morehead State University in Kentucky is leading the six-unit (6-U) CubeSat mission, with significant involvement from scientists and engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the Massachusetts-based Busek Company. It will be among the “first batch” of small, fully operational satellites to deploy and gather scientific information in deep space, said Pam Clark, the mission’s science principal investigator at Goddard. Although CubeSats are evolving rapidly, scientists so far have confined their use to investigations in low-Earth orbit.

Under the university-led partnership, Morehead State’s Space Science Center will build the 6-U satellite bus and provide communications and tracking support via its 21-meter ground station antenna. Busek will provide the state-of-the-art electric propulsion system and Goddard will construct IceCube’s only miniaturized instrument, the Broadband InfraRed Compact High Resolution Explorer Spectrometer (BIRCHES). The instrument will prospect for water in ice, liquid, and vapor forms from a highly inclined elliptical lunar orbit. Goddard also will model a low-thrust trajectory taking the pint-size satellite to lunar orbit with very little propellant.

Morehead State University professor Ben Malphrus, who is leading the Lunar IceCube mission, stands in front of the university’s 21-meter ground station antenna that will be handling the mission’s communications needs. Credits: Randy Evans/Dataseam

“Goddard scientists and engineers have deep experience in areas that are critical to interplanetary exploration,” said mission Morehead State University Principal Investigator Benjamin Malphrus, explaining why the university teamed with Goddard. “The significant expertise at Goddard, combined with Morehead State’s experience in smallsats and Busek’s in innovative electric-propulsion systems, create a strong team.”

See the full article here.

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NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

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