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Lunar Trailblazer (SIMPLEx 5)

Lunar Trailblazer [Lockheed Martin]

Lunar Trailblazer is a small lunar orbiter mission developed under NASA's SIMPLEx program to investigate the presence and form of water on the Moon. The mission is led by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

The mission goals are to understand the form, abundance, and distribution of water on the Moon and the lunar water cycle:

  • Determine the form, abundance, and distribution of H2O and OH across targeted areas in sunlit portions of the Moon, including variability by latitude, soil maturity, lithology
  • Test for and measure the possible temporal variations and mobility of H2O and OH
  • Determine the form and abundance of ice, bound H2O, and OH in permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) using terrain scattered light
  • Understand how localized gradients in albedo and surface temperature affect ice and OH/H2O concentration, including the potential identification of new, small cold traps

Additional science

  • Exploration zone reconnaissance for landed missions
  • Mapping crust lithologic composition

The mission features two capable, high heritage science instruments:

  • The HVM3 (High-resolution Volatiles and Minerals Moon Mapper) provided by the JPL. The HVM3 instrument is a pushbroom shortwave infrared (SWIR) imaging spectrometer. With a spatial resolution of 70 m/pixel over a 20 km swath width, and a spectral resolution of 10 nm over a spectral range of 0.6 to 3.6 µm, HVM3 is optimized for the detection of volatiles to map OH, bound H2O, and water ice.
  • Lunar Thermal Mapper (LTM) by the University of Oxford. It is a pushbroom multichannel imaging thermal radiometer. With a spatial resolution of 25 m/pixel over an 11 km swath width, 4 broad bands between 6 and 100 µm, and 11 bands between 7 and 10 µm, LTM simultaneously maps temperature (110-400 K), physical properties, and composition of water-bearing areas in HVM3 pixels.

Originally a team consisting of Ball Aerospace and Vlue Canyon was to provide a spacecraft with solar electric propulsion.

In July 2020, Lockheed Martin Space was selected as the new partner for Lunar Trailblazer’s flight system. They will design and build the spacecraft, integrate the instruments, and work with rideshare services to ready Lunar Trailblazer as a secondary payload for launch. The switch was made after the original spacecraft partner ran into design and cost challenges. The new version of the Lunar Trailblazer spacecraft will use chemical propulsion to get to the Moon, shaving months off the journey relative to the previous electric propulsion implementation. The spacecraft will weigh approximately 200 kg and fit comfortably in the ESPA Grande standard small satellite volume allocation.

The mission is to be ready for launch in late 2022. Launch is manifested as ride-share payload with NASA's IMAP mission in 2024.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: Lunar orbiter
Operator: California Institute of Technology (Caltech); NASA
Contractors: Lockheed Martin
Equipment: HVM3, LTM
Configuration: LM-200 ?
Power: 2 deployable solar arrays, batteries
Lifetime: 1 year
Mass: 200 kg
Orbit: 100±30 km polar Lunar orbit
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
Lunar Trailblazer (SIMPLEx 5) - 2024 CC Falcon-9 v1.2 (Block 5) with IMAP, SWFO-L1, ?, ?