NASA has entered into a new contract with Draper under the CLPS programme, which provides that in 2025, Draper will deliver three scientific instruments aboard the new landing platform to the other side of the Moon.
Draper, an American engineering company specializing in the space sector, recently received a contract from NASA, which selected Draper as part of a CLPS mission to deliver three scientific instruments to the hidden face of the Moon in 2025, the target being the Schroedinger Basin, a large crater resulting from the fall of a meteorite about 320 km in diameter, located in the southern pole of the Moon.
The cost of the agreement is $73 million and involves the use of a new landing vehicle called SERIES-2 and designed on the basis of the ISspace landing vehicle, and Lander will be responsible for delivering the above-mentioned experiments to the lunar surface to collect data and measure the heat flow and conductivity on the surface of our satellite, and the electromagnetic phenomena associated with solar wind and plasma interactions with the lunar surface will be measured during the experiments.
Three experiments to be sent to the Moon
Schroedinger's basin is one of the youngest places on the moon surface, and after the impact that caused it, there was a large eruption of the volcano, which, combined with its nature, made it a very interesting place for NASA. Scientists hope to explore the thermal and geophysical properties that hide the pool, as well as the electromagnetic properties that are present at a site that we remember is protected from the electromagnetic fields of the Earth.
Two of the three scientific instruments selected for this purpose are part of the NASA-mandated proposal competition called PRISM.
- In particular, Lucide Seismic Suite will measure the conditions that control the electrostatic potential of the surface of the Moon. This potential is crucial for the transport of lunar dust. Finally, the scientific experiment will monitor the interaction of solar wind and plasma with the satellite surface. The instrument was developed by NASA in cooperation with CNES.
Several companies involved, goal one
As a mission to the hidden side of the Moon, and therefore not visible from the Earth, the Draper SERIES-2 landing vehicle will require satellite support for communications, and Draper announced that he had contracted with Blue Canyon Technologies to develop two satellites that would be launched during the mission prior to landing on the Moon.
Advance Space, already working on the NASA CAPSTONE mission, will also support them by taking over the management of two satellites. Several companies have been identified as already participating in a mission in which Draper is a "principal contractor." In addition, the Lander himself is inspired by the design provided by the United States branch of the Japanese company Ispace, which specializes in lunar landers. SERIES-2 will be built by System Technologies, Carman Space & Defence. In addition, General Atomics Electronic Systems will be responsible for the integration and testing phase.
Between the past, the present and the future
This is the eighth mission appointed by NASA under the CLPS programme, but only the first one aimed at the hidden side of the Moon, so far the only mission directed at the hidden side of our satellite is China's Chan'e-4 machine, which landed at the Fon Carman Crater in January 2019.
While NASA and Draper are planning this new mission for 2025, it is worth noting that four more companies are currently participating in the CLPS programme; in fact, there are three missions for Intuitive Machines, two for Astrobotic and one for Firefly Aerospace and Mosten Space Systems, all planned until 2025.
However, none of them have yet started their mission! Between financial problems, as in the case of Mosten, and delays in production, as in the case of other companies, we are accustomed to long periods when it comes to the Moon. Just a few days ago, NASA itself announced the postponement of the VIPER mission with the Griffin landing vehicle of Astrobotic just a few days ago.
However, there was more encouraging news about the Peregrine Astrobotic landing vehicle, which is still scheduled for launch by the end of this year, when Ispace announced the shipment of its own lander in November 2022, although the target is almost the same, this mission is not part of the CLPS programme; however, it is fair to expect that this mission could be postponed, especially in view of the upcoming first Artemis mission, the only one that is now almost certain to be dispatched in 2022.
Anyway, as soon as the first mission starts, we can be expected to have real American launches on the Moon, and the Intuitive Machines company itself recently announced that the IM-1 landing platform is likely to be launched in January 2023, so at a small distance from Peregrine and Artemis-1. Finally, after a troubled past and present that is not encouraging due to financial and technical problems, it seems that the near future related to the Moon may be exciting.