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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: determine the form, abundance, and distribution of H2O and OH across targeted areas in sunlit portions of the Moon, including variability by latitude, soil maturity, lithology; test for and measure the possible temporal variations and mobility of H2O and OH; determine the form and abundance of ice, bound H2O, and OH in permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) using terrain scattered light; and understand how localized gradients in albedo and surface temperature affect ice and OH/H2O concentration, including the potential identification of new, small cold traps. Lunar trailblazer is a NASA SIMPLEx (Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration) mission planned to launch in 2024 as a rideshare on the IMAP heliophysics mission.

Spacecraft and Subsystems

Lunar Trailblazer has a box-shaped bus with two roll-out solar arrays (ROSA) 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 7 meters. Total mass of the spacecraft is under 320 kg. Propulsion is provided by a xenon solar-electric ion system. 1300 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 100 kbps. The 20 kg science payload comprises two experiments, the HVM3 Imaging Spectrometer and the Lunar Thermal Mapper, with co-aligned fields of view.

Mission Profile

Lunar Trailblazer will launch as a secondary satellite with the IMAP (Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe) mission, currently scheduled for 1 February 2025. Following launch on a Falcon 9 Full Thrust from Cape Canaveral, Lunar Trailblazer will be taken 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.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin Space

Alternate Names

    Facts in Brief

    Launch Date: 
    Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
    Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
    Mass: 320 kg
    Nominal Power: 1300 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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