A lunar lander launching next week will have a special pair of four eyes to track how the spacecraft’s engine plume interacts with the lunar surface.
IM-1 Nova-C by Intuitive Machines moon The lander is currently ready to launch on a SpaceX. Falcon 9 rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Valentine’s Day (February 14) at 12:57 a.m. EST (0557 GMT).
The lander, called Odysseus, carries 12 payloads, half of which are commercial and the rest from NASA. One of them is the Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume Surface Studies (SCALPSS), developed at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and placed around the base of the tall hexagonal cylindrical lander.
Related: SpaceX targets February 14 for launch of Intuitive Machines’ private IM-1 lunar mission
SCALPSS 1.0 will be active during the lander’s descent to the moon and will observe how Odysseus’ engines impact and modify the lunar surface. The experiment uses stereo photogrammetry, where overlaid images from the cameras are used to create a 3D view of the lunar surface, allowing detailed analysis of changes to the surface after landing.
The findings will help scientists and engineers predict the effects of moon landings on the lunar surface, an important question for NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the moon and establish a long-term lunar presence. Concerns include possible erosion or damage to nearby equipment due to the lander’s smoke plume.
“If we put things (landers, habitats, etc.) close to each other, we could be sandblasting what’s next to us, so that will generate requirements to protect those other assets on the surface, which could add mass, and that mass propagates through the architecture,” said Michelle Munk, SCALPSS principal investigator and acting chief architect of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in a report from the POT. statement. “It’s all part of an integrated engineering problem.”
According to NASA, it will take the SCALPSS team at least a couple of months to process the images, verify the data, and generate 3D digital elevation maps. But the hard work will help plan future missions and ensure the safety of the moon landings.
The IM-1 Nova-C lander will attempt to become the first private spacecraft to successfully land on the lunar surface.
Follow the example of the failed Israeli company SpaceIL. Bereshit and the Japanese company ispace Hakuto-R moon landing missions in 2019 and 2023, and the loss of astrobotics Pilgrim earlier this year. Peregrine finally suffered fuel leak that ends the mission shortly after separating from the upper stage of the Vulcan Centaur rocket.
Like Peregrine, Odysseus is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. The initiative is part of NASA’s broader Artemis program.
Another CLPS mission, Firefly Aerospace’s Blue Ghost, is scheduled to carry SCALPSS 1.1 later this year. This improved version will have two additional cameras.