Updated August 24th, 2022 at 18:37 IST

Artemis I: All ten CubeSats being sent to space under NASA's Moon mission on August 29

Artemis I mission will see the deployment of ten CubeSats from NASA's SLS rocket that will conduct several experiments in outer space.

Harsh Vardhan
Artemis I
Image: NASA | Image:self

When the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket lifts off on August 29 from the Kennedy Space Center, it will carry ten CubeSats as secondary payloads and release them once the rocket reaches space. These CubeSats will be released a few hours after the launch and conduct several experiments which range from mapping the lunar surface to studying the effects of space radiation. 

According to NASA, four of these CubeSats are for lunar science, three are for technology demonstration and three are for radiation measurements. Let us take a brief look at all of them and the purpose they would serve.

CubeSats hitching a ride aboard the SLS rocket

1. Lunar IceCube: Weighing roughly 14 kg, this CubeSat will map the water distribution across the lunar surface using its Broadband InfraRed Compact High-Resolution Exploration Spectrometer (BIRCHES) instrument. The CubeSat will also be used to study the thin atmosphere-like volume surrounding the Moon called the exosphere. It has been developed by Morehead State University in partnership with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Busek Company.

(Lunar IceCube CubeSat; Image: NASA)

2. LunaH-Map: Meant to last 60 days, this CubeSat’s mission will be creating a map of hydrogen at a spatial scale of about 10 kilometers and assessing the element’s amount in water-ice locked in deep shadowy lunar craters. According to NASA, the CubeSat will map the entire hydrogen content of the lunar south pole and one metre beneath the surface. Designed by experts from Arizona State University, it will make 141 highly elliptical orbits and will get as close as 4.8 to 9.6 km to the lunar surface.

(LunaH-Map CubeSat; Image: Arizona State University)

3. LuNIR: Developed by Lockheed Martin Space, this CubeSat will conduct a lunar flyby and use an advanced miniature infrared sensor to gather images and data about the lunar surface and its environment. It will also collect data about material composition, thermal signatures, the presence of water, and potential landing sites on the lunar surface both during the day and night. 

(LuNIR CubeSat; Image: Lockheed Martin Space)

4. OMOTENASHI: Short for Outstanding Moon exploration Technologies demonstrated by Nano Semi-Hard Impactor, it is a contribution by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Weighing 12.6 kg, this CubeSat will release a 1kg nanolander with an objective to test the technologies and trajectory maneuvers that allow a small lander to land on the Moon while keeping its systems – including power, communication, and propulsion systems – intact. Interestingly, Japan will become the fourth nation to successfully land a spacecraft on the lunar surface if the nanolander touches down safely. 


5. NEA Scout: No bigger than a shoebox, NEA Scout will be deployed from the SLS and propelled toward an asteroid named 2020 GE. This is part of a technology demonstration mission that will test the concept of solar sail to propel the CubeSat using sunlight instead of propellant. The spacecraft will reach its destination in two years and will use its camera to gather data on the asteroid’s size, shape, rotation, and surface properties.

(NEA Scout; Image: NASA)

6. EQUULEUS: Short for EQUilibriUm Lunar-Earth point 6U Spacecraft, this CubeSat is also a contribution of JAXA. It will be deployed to study the radiation-filled space environment to provide insights into how to protect humans and electronics from radiation damage during long space journeys. 

(EQUULEUS CubeSat; Image: NASA)

Meant to also measure meteor impact flashes and the dust environment around the Moon, this CubeSat will travel roughly 96 million kilometers during its mission, which is farther than any spacecraft of this size has ever travelled. 

7. BioSentinel: Using this CubeSat, scientists will gather data on the effects of radiation on organisms in space. The shoebox-sized satellite will be carrying yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to study its biological response such as growth and biological response to deep space radiation. NASA says that it chose yeasts for this mission because the DNA damage repair processes in them are highly similar to that of humans. 

(BioSentinel CubeSat; Image: NASA)

8. CuSP: Short for CubeSat to study Solar Particles, it will orbit the Sun with three instruments to measure incoming radiation and the magnetic field. Studying these elements are necessary because they can create a variety of effects on Earth, such as interfering with radio communications, tripping up satellite electronics, and creating electronic currents in power grids. 

(CuSP CubeSat; Image: NASA)

9. ArgoMoon: ArgoMoon has been jointly developed by Italian company Argotec and the Italian Space Agency and it will be deployed from the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) of the SLS rocket. Its objective is to record images of the ICPS and later of the Earth and the Moon for historical documentation using its high-definition cameras and advanced imaging software. Besides, it will also be used to gather mission data on the deployment of other CubeSats, and test optical communication capabilities between the CubeSat and Earth. 

(ArgoMoon CubeSat; Image: NASA)

10. Team Miles:  Developed by Miles Space and software developer Fluid & Reason, LLC, it will travel to deep space to demonstrate plasma thrusters, a propulsion system that uses low-frequency electromagnetic waves. While in space, the CubeSat will use plasma iodine thrusters to travel 60 million km from Earth on a trajectory toward Mars. 

(Team Miles CubeSat; Image: NASA)


Published August 24th, 2022 at 18:37 IST

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