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NASA’s Lunar Trailblazer is set for launch in mid-2023

NASA’s Lunar Trailblazer mission, part of the agency’s Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEX) program, is moving ahead and targeting a mid-2023 launch.

Lunar Trailblazer is a small satellite mission aimed at understanding the lunar water cycle, detecting and mapping water on the lunar surface to study how its form, abundance, and location relate to geology. The tiny satellite will detect ice signatures in reflected light and locate locations of micro-chill traps less than the size of a football field.

The spacecraft will arrive on the Moon and begin its scientific mapping nearly six months after its launch in mid-2023.

NASA evaluated the Lunar Trailblazer mission after cost overruns were reported by the project. Mission partners have rescheduled the remaining work and costs to complete the mission for a total increase of $8 million.

“Mission proposals for the SIMPLEx program have been capped at $55 million. The updated mission total of $72 million includes previously agreed upon changes to the mission implementation, including the provider of spacecraft, launch vendor and launch date, among others,” the agency said in a statement. statement on Wednesday.

In a blog post, NASA said the team continues to work on spacecraft assembly. Two of the spacecraft’s science instruments – JPL’s High-resolution Volatiles and Minerals Moon Mapper, and the University of Oxford’s Lunar Thermal Mapper, funded by the UK Space Agency – are expected to be delivered before the end of the year.

NASA’s SIMPLEx program provides opportunities for low-cost, high-risk science missions that meet flexibility requirements.