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Lunar Trailblazer



Lunar Trailblazer is a small (Class D) mission to orbit the Moon and study the form, abundance, and distribution of lunar water and its relation to geology. The science objectives are to: (1) detect and map water on the lunar surface at key locations to determine its form (OH, H2O, or ice), abundance, and distribution as a function of latitude, soil maturity, and lithology; (2) assess possible time variation in lunar water on sunlit surfaces; (3) map the form, abundance, and distribution of water ice in the permanently shadowed regions (PSRs); and (4) measure surface temperature to quantify local gradients and search for small cold traps. Lunar Trailblazer is a NASA SIMPLEx (Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration) mission planned to launch in the 4th quarter of 2024 as a rideshare on the PRIME-1 CLPS mission.

Spacecraft and Subsystems

Lunar Trailblazer has a box-shaped bus with two deployable solar arrays which form two wings on opposite sides of the spacecraft. The bus is designed to be held on an ESPA Grande port in stowed configuration as a ride-on, the port can hold a volume up to about 1 meter on a side. Total length of the unstowed spacecraft with arrays deployed is 3.5 meters. Total mass of the spacecraft is roughly 200 kg. Propulsion is provided by a hydrazine chemical propulsion system. 280 W of power are provided by the solar panels. Telecommunications are via X-band using an Iris radio system. Data rate via the Deep Space Network is greater than 256 kbps.

The 20 kg science payload comprises two experiments, the High Resolution Volatiles and Minerals Moon Mapper (HVM3) and the Lunar Thermal Mapper (LTM), with co-aligned fields of view. HVM3 is a pushbroom shortwave infrared (SWIR) imaging spectrometer that will cover the 0.6 - 3.6 micron spectral range at approximately 10 nm resolution with a spatial resolution of 50 - 90 m/pixel. LTM has 11 channels between 7 and 10 microns and 4 broad band channels from 6 - 100 microns, with the ability to map temperatures from 110-400 k at a precision of 2 K and a spatial resolution of 25 m/pixel.

Mission Profile

Lunar Trailblazer is currently scheduled to launch as a secondary satellite with the PRIME-1 (IM-2) mission, planned for the 4th quarter of 2024. Following launch on a Falcon 9 Full Thrust from Cape Canaveral and release about 2 hours later, Lunar Trailblazer will travel to the L1 Lagrange point and will begin a series of thrust maneuvers over roughly 6 months to reach the Moon and spiral down to its nominal circular 100 km (+- 30 km) polar orbit around the Moon. Plans are to target approximately 1000 areas covering 1-2 % of the Moon's surface. The orbit will put a given target at nadir every 2 months, and have the same viewing geometry every 6 months. The mission is scheduled to last for 1 year or more.

For more information on Lunar Trailblazer, see:

Image credit: Lockheed Martin Space

Alternate Names

  • LunarTrailblazer

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 
Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
Mass: 200 kg
Nominal Power: 280 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. Calina SeyboldProject ManagerNASA Jet Propulsion
Dr. Bethany EhlmannMission Principal InvestigatorCalifornia Institute of
Dr. Rachel KlimaMission Principal InvestigatorJohns Hopkins
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