NASA has selected 12 science and technology payloads that will launch aboard commercial lunar landers as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) project. The 12 payloads were selected specifically to aid the agency in its goal of returning to the Moon by 2024.
“Each demonstrates either a new science instrument or a technological innovation that supports scientific and human exploration objectives, and many have broader applications for Mars and beyond,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate.
The 12 selected payloads are:
MoonRanger is a small, fast rover capable of traversing beyond communications range of a lander and returning. It will be used to investigate within a 1-kilometre range of the lander continually mapping the terrain it covers.
A flexible camera system for conducting lunar studies. The system includes a digital video recorder, and four cameras (a wide-angle descent imager, two wide-angle panoramic imagers, and a narrow-angle imager).
Lunar Demonstration of a Reconfigurable, Radiation Tolerant Computer System
A technology demonstration that aims to test a radiation-tolerant computing system. It will also allow researchers to better characterise the radiation effects on the lunar surface.
Regolith Adherence Characterization (RAC)
RAC is aimed at determining how lunar regolith sticks to a range of materials during different phases of flight.
The Lunar Magnetotelluric Sounder
An experiment that will use sound to study electric and magnetic fields to characterise the composition and structure of the Moon’s mantle.
The Lunar Surface Electromagnetics Experiment (LuSEE)
LuSEE will make comprehensive measurements of electromagnetic phenomena on the lunar surface. It will utilise flight-spare hardware from NASA’s Maven and Parker Solar Probe missions.
The Lunar Environment heliospheric X-ray Imager (LEXI)
LEXI will capture images of the interaction of solar wind with the Earth’s magnetosphere.
Next Generation Lunar Retroreflectors (NGLR)
During Apollo 11, 14 and 15, astronauts placed retroreflectors that are used to this day to measure the distance between the Earth and the Moon. NGLR is a next-generation variant of these Apollo-era retroreflectors
The Lunar Compact InfraRed Imaging System (L-CIRiS)
L-CIRiS will explore the surface composition of the moon as well as map the temperature distribution of the lunar surface using a radiometer.
The Lunar Instrumentation for Subsurface Thermal Exploration with Rapidity (LISTER)
A probe that will attempt to drill 2 to 3 meters into the lunar surface to investigate the Moons thermal properties at various depths.
A technology demonstration for transferring samples from the lunar surface to containers or other instruments.
SAMPLR: Sample Acquisition, Morphology Filtering, and Probing of Lunar Regolith
SAMPLR is another sample acquisition technology demonstration that will utilise a flight-spare robotic arm from the Mars Exploration Rover program.
CLPS contracts were awarded to three commercial partners: Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and OrbitBeyond in June. The first, OrbitBeyond is expected to be launched in September 2020 with the other two following in July 2021.