- Satellite Evolution
Terran Orbital integrates LunIR Into NASA’s space launch system
Terran Orbital Corporation, a global leader in satellite solutions, primarily serving the United States and Allied aerospace and defense industries, integrated the Lunar Infrared imaging spacecraft, also known as LunIR into NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS).
With its unprecedented power and capabilities, SLS is the only rocket that will be able to send the Orion capsule, astronauts, and cargo directly to the Moon on a single mission. LunIR will fly by the Moon and collect surface thermography as a secondary payload on Artemis 1 – a test mission for SLS. After the flyby, the 6U satellite will conduct technology demonstrations related to deep-space operations for future Mars missions.
LunIR is Terran Orbital’s second lunar mission following CAPSTONE. One of the things unique to LunIR is its “moon camera” vision guidance system. Lockheed Martin provides this system with a novel algorithm which Terran Orbital will then convert into pointing commands.
Artemis 1 serves as the first test flight for the SLS megarocket and the Orion crew capsule. Launching from Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, the Orion spacecraft will spend between 26 and 42 days on mission, with at least six of those days in a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon. The mission will certify the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System launch vehicle for crewed flights beginning with the second flight test of the Orion and Space Launch System, Artemis 2.
LunIR was developed by Terran Orbital in partnership with Lockheed Martin. Terran Orbital designed, built, and integrated the spacecraft and will run mission operations. Lockheed Martin created LunIR’s infrared sensor and cryocooler to operate in both day and night, mapping the lunar surface, detecting materials, and collecting thermal signatures. The company also provides the overall systems engineering and system planning for the mission. LunIR includes two deployable solar panels – totaling the spacecraft’s mass at 11 kg. The shoebox-sized satellite will communicate with Earth via ground stations operated by Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) in Punta Arenas, Chile; Svalbard, Norway; and Troll station, Antarctica.
“Terran Orbital is elated to bring LunIR one step closer to launch,” said Marc Bell, Terran Orbital Co-Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer. “Satellites like LunIR are the most cost-effective way to learn more about the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Terran Orbital is grateful to Lockheed Martin and NASA for the opportunity to contribute to the historic Artemis program and we look forward to communicating with KSAT as we guide LunIR to the Moon.”
“We’re excited to be able to test out this novel infrared sensor and micro cryocooler with LunIR, and we’re grateful to Terran Orbital for their partnership throughout this technology demonstration mission,” said John Ricks, Lockheed Martin program manager for LunIR.
“Supporting this lunar mission for Terran Orbital and prime contractor Lockheed Martin is something we are genuinely excited about,” said Arnulf Kjeldsen, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Technology at KSAT. “Exploratory missions going to the Moon and beyond are challenging and we look forward to supporting LunIR on our network. We are continuously expanding our global network to meet the growing demand as more lunar missions are coming to fruition through the Artemis program and NASA´s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts.”