Terran Orbital Corporation , a global leader in satellite solutions, primarily serving the aerospace and defense industries of the United States and allied nations, has integrated the Lunar Infrared Imaging Spacecraft, also known as LunIR, into the Space Launch System (SLS) from NASA. With its unprecedented power and capabilities, SLS is the only rocket capable of sending the Orion capsule, astronauts and cargo directly to the Moon in a single mission. LunIR will fly close to 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 perform technology demonstrations related to deep space operations for future missions to Mars.
LunIR is Terran Orbital’s second lunar mission after CAPSTONE. One of the unique features of LunIR is its “Lunar Camera” visual guidance system. Lockheed Martin provides this system with a new algorithm that Terran Orbital will then convert into pointing commands.
Artemis 1 serves as the first test flight for the SLS mega-rocket and the Orion crew capsule. Launching from Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center, the Orion spacecraft will spend between 26 and 42 days on the mission, including at least six days in a deep retrograde orbit around the Moon. The mission will certify the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System launch vehicle for crewed flight from 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 lead mission operations. Lockheed Martin created the LunIR infrared sensor and cryocooler to operate day and night, mapping the lunar surface, detecting materials and collecting heat signatures. The company also provides overall systems engineering and system planning for the mission. LunIR includes two deployable solar panels – totaling the mass of the spacecraft to 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 excited to bring LunIR closer to launch,” said Marc Bell, co-founder, president and CEO of Terran Orbital. “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 are looking forward to communicating with KSAT as we guide LunIR to the Moon.
“We are excited to be able to test this new infrared sensor and micro cryocooler with LunIR, and we are grateful to Terran Orbital for their partnership throughout this technology demonstration. assignment,” 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 really excited about,” said Arnulf Kjeldsen, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Technology at KSAT. “Exploration missions to the Moon and beyond are challenging and we look forward to supporting LunIR on our network. We are continually expanding our global network to meet growing demand as more lunar missions come to fruition through to the Artemis program and commercial NASA Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts.