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Lunar Ice Cube



Lunar Ice Cube is a CubeSat mission to study the distribution of water and organic volatiles on the Moon from lunar orbit. The spacecraft is scheduled to be a ride-on mission on the Artemis 1 launch, currently planned for 2022. The primary scientific objectives of the mission are to: enable broadband spectral determination of composition and distribution of volatiles in regolith on the Moon and analogous bodies as a function of time of day, latitude, regolith age, and composition; provide geological context by way of spectral determination of major minerals; and enable understanding of current dynamics of volatile sources, sinks, and processes, with implications for evolutionary origin of volatiles.

Lunar Ice Cube is a 6U CubeSat, approximately 10 x 20 x 30 cm in size, with two deployable solar panel wings. It has a mass of approximately 14 kg. Propulsion of 1.24 mN is provided by a BIT-3 RF electric ion propulsion system using 3 kg of wet iodine propellant. Solar cells and rechargeable batteries provide 120 W of continuous power. Communications are via the Iris X-band radio system and dual patch antennas and a UHF beacon. The spacecraft will carry one instrument, the Broadband InfraRed Compact High-resolution Explorer Spectrometer (BIRCHES).

After launch as a ride-share on Artemis 1 on the SLS Block 1 booster, scheduled for for August 2022 at the earliest, Lunar Ice Cube will use a low thrust transfer trajectory to reach the Moon and go into a high-inclination elliptical orbit with a perilune of 100 km, from which the BIRCHES instrument will collect data on any water on the surface in gaseous, liquid, and solid form. The mission is scheduled to last for 6 months.

Image credit: Morehead State University

Alternate Names

    Facts in Brief

    Launch Date: 
    Launch Vehicle: SLS Block 1 Crew
    Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
    Mass: 14 kg
    Nominal Power: 120 W

    Funding Agency

    • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (United States)


    • Planetary Science

    Additional Information

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



    NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
    Dr. Pamela ClarkMission Principal InvestigatorNASA Jet Propulsion
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