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Lockheed Martin Closed a Deal with NASA for Tiny Moon Satellite

Aug 10, 2016 06:00 AM EDT

NASA is preparing for the launch of the world's most powerful rocket the new Space Launch System (SLS) in 2018 or in 2019. In line with that, Lockheed Martin finalized a deal with NASA to launch its payload called SkyFire, a 6U CubeSat that can take high-resolution images of the moon.

NASA's SLS is set to launch the Orion spacecraft into the moon's orbit. The Orion can also carry 13 CubeSats bays that can house shoebox size payloads. Payloads this many haven't been carried into deep space until SLS. Lockheed Martin managed to finalize a deal with NASA to carry its payload, a tiny cube satellite or a 6U CubeSat called SkyFire. SkyFire will take high-quality images of the moon during the mission. Reports say that in an exchange with Lockheed Martin's CubeSat ride to the moon, NASA will receive images from the mission.

"The CubeSat will look for specific lunar characteristics like solar illumination areas," James Russell, Lockheed Martin SkyFire principal investigator, said in a statement. "We'll be able to see new things with sensors that are less costly to make and send to space," Russell added.

Due to the limitations in space, Lockheed Martin needs to develop a more compact camera that will fit into the shoebox-sized payload. The smaller and innovative gears that can deliver good science might also work for future NASA missions alleviating the weight concerns and promoting cost-effectiveness as well.

Aside from Lockheed Martin's CubeSat, other companies are included in the upcoming NASA Exploration Mission-1 like the IceCube that was built to locate water ice on the lunar surface and the BioSentinel that is capable of measuring the effect of space radiation on living things.

The mission is set to launch in 2018 but the potential of delay are also recognized by the agency. Also in line with the SLS launch, NASA assisted in the testing of one of the rocket boosters that will be used for the launch.

 

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