NASA Continues Efforts to Save Moon CubeSat Designed for Water Exploration

NASA is still working to salvage the cubesat called Lunar Flashlight that is intended for water research. The spacecraft is part of NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology program. It ran into issues not long after launch in December 2022. The spacecraft found it difficult to fly over the South Pole of the Moon. This was caused by three of its four thrusters operating at reduced efficiency due to clogged fuel lines.

NASA experts have been working nonstop to partially repair one or more of the Flashlight’s thrusters. This will fix the problem. The mission team must provide the thrust necessary to make monthly flybys of the lunar South Pole by the end of April. The team has achieved some success. However, they keep trying new approaches to remove the suspected clogs in the thruster fuel lines, according to NASA.

A briefcase-sized satellite called the Lunar Flashlight is intended to cast infrared light on some of the permanently dark regions of the Moon. The aim is to look for ice water reserves. It may be because the spacecraft is employing a new propulsion technology. Due to its lack of prior space usage, the technology faced challenges when attempting to enter lunar orbit.

The mission’s main goal, according to NASA, is to investigate how well this innovative propulsion technology actually works in space. Notwithstanding its difficulties, the Lunar Flashlight mission was able to accomplish all of its technological goals.

It was originally planned for the Lunar Flashlight to use its lone unhindered thruster to enter a nearly rectilinear halo orbit. It was necessary for NASA to endeavor to put the probe in a high Earth orbit.This was after the sole engine faced problems with its performance. The probe’s ability to examine the Moon’s south pole for water ice would then be reduced from once a week to once every month.

The updated strategy is in place, but the Lunar Flashlight is still having trouble putting itself into lunar orbit. The NASA crew is optimistic that they can find a solution within the next month. Failing to achieve success would mean that the shadowed parts of the Moon will remain a mystery for the foreseeable future.

As part of a technology demonstration mission like this one, problems will inevitably arise. This was stated by according to Justin Treptow, who works as the deputy program executive in charge of the Small Spacecraft Technology program at NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. The primary goal of the mission will only be achieved after the propulsion system has undergone flight testing, evaluation, and troubleshooting.