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Cislunar Explorers



The Cislunar Explorers are a pair of L-shaped cubesats designed as an engineering demonstration mission to test the viability of using water as a propellant on a cubesat-sized spacecraft. It will also be testing the use of interplanetary optical navigation for small spacecraft. The cubesats are planned to be carried as secondary payloads on the Space Launch System (SLS) Artemis 1 launch, currently planned for launch in late 2021 or early 2022.

The Cislunar Explorers are two virtually identical L-shaped cubesats. Each cube has a titanium water tank with internal electrolyzers the botton of the "L". Power is provided by solar panels, which also contain embedded antennas. A propulsion nozzle is mounted on a combustion chamber, which is connected to the water tank through a check valve and flame arrester. Each cubesat carries 3 small cameras.

The Cislunar Explorers will launch as ride-on satellites on the SLS Artemis 1 in late 2021 or early 2022. The two satellites will be attached in a 6U rectangular configuration (10 x 20 x 30 cm) at launch. After deployment from the SLS Orion Stage Adapter, the two Cislunar Explorers will separate, forced apart by a spring mechanism that also imparts a rotation to both spacecraft. The water in the tanks is electrolyzed using power from the solar panels, and the resulting hydrogen and oxygen gas kept separate from the water by the spacecraft rotation. Optical navigation will also be tested during the flight.

Image credit: Cornell University

Alternate Names

    Facts in Brief

    Launch Date: 
    Launch Vehicle: 
    Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States

    Funding Agency

    • Unknown (United States)


    • Navigation/Global Positioning

    Additional Information

    Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



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