Lunar Trailblazer found a faster “hitchhiking”

NASA has found a new rocket for the Lunar Trailblazer mission. This will speed up the timing of its launch by almost two years. 

Complex search for space “hitchhiking”

The Lunar Trailblazer is one of three projects selected for implementation in 2019 as part of the SIMPLEx (Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration) program. Its purpose is to study various objects of the Solar System using small probes launched as associated cargo and having a cost not exceeding 55 million dollars. 

ESCAPADE mission (concept). Source: NASA

As it turned out, the most difficult part of the program was not the construction of spacecraft, but the search for suitable carriers for them. All three projects faced corresponding problems. So, a pair of EscaPADE probes was originally supposed to go to Mars together with the Psyche probe. However, after NASA chose the Falcon Heavy rocket to launch it, the flight path changed in such a way that it made it impossible to complete the mission tasks. At the moment, EscaPADE is still in the search stage for another rocket.

A pair of Janus probes faced a different problem. The recent postponement of the launch date of Psyche led to the fact that NASA lost the opportunity to send them to the originally planned asteroids. As a result, the mission staff had to urgently search for alternative targets.

As for the Lunar Trailblazer, it was originally planned to send the device into space on a Falcon 9 rocket together with an IMAP device. However, recently the launch date of the mission has shifted to 2025. This is too long a waiting period for an almost ready-made device, so NASA started looking for another rocket.

New Rocket for Lunar Trailblazer

On June 21, NASA representatives announced the successful solution of the problem. Now Lunar Trailblazer will be launched together with the private IM-2 mission, which aims to land at the south pole of the Moon. The project is scheduled to be implemented next year. Thus, NASA managed to accelerate the launch of Lunar Trailblazer by almost two years.

The Lunar Trailblazer device. Source: Lockheed Martin Space

Lunar Trailblazer is built by Lockheed Martin, its weight is 200 kg. The main objectives of the mission are to search and map water ice deposits on the Moon, as well as to determine the mineralogical composition of its surface. To perform these tasks, the device is equipped with two infrared spectrometers.

Recall that NASA also recently found a companion rocket for the Lunar Flashlight mission.

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