NASA is soliciting proposals for scientific instruments that might reveal answers about lunar resources that could support the agency’s journey to Mars. NASA would sponsor the instruments to fly on a lunar orbiter designed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI).
The spacecraft, the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), is scheduled to launch in December 2018, and is part of KARI’s Korea Lunar Exploration Program, which aims to robotically explore the moon through a series of orbiter and lander missions, starting with the KPLO.
KARI has provided 15 kilograms of KPLO payload space to NASA, for which NASA anticipates selecting up to four instruments to sponsor, with a total budget of $15 million. NASA’s objective in selecting instruments is to address Strategic Knowledge Gaps, or SKGs. SKGs represent gaps in knowledge or information required to reduce risk, increase effectiveness, and improve the design of robotic and human space exploration missions.
“The KPLO mission represents an excellent opportunity for NASA to partner with KARI while contributing to these important knowledge gaps,” said Jason Crusan, Director of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This opportunity strengthens our understanding the solar system and the potential to harvest its resources for future human exploration.”
By sponsoring instruments on the KPLO, NASA seeks to better understand the presence of basic elements on the moon. Previous lunar orbiter missions such as the Lunar Prospector, Clementine, Chandrayaan-1, and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter have discovered various signatures of water and hydroxide, but lacked completely conclusive science data to fully discern the various forms of water (e.g., ice, vapor, and liquid) or other volatiles.
Utilizing these resources found naturally in extraterrestrial soils could foster more affordable and sustainable human exploration to many deep space destinations. Humans living, working and exploring in space and on other planetary bodies must be able to make their own breathable air and potable water for sustainable long-term missions. Hydrogen and oxygen can be used to make vital those consumables, and also are the same elements that comprise the most vital building blocks of rocket propellants. The ability to produce consumables and propellants in space presents the potential for humans to explore without dependence on logistics resupply missions from Earth – a construct that could lay the groundwork for permanent human presence beyond Earth orbit.
The KPLO mission objectives are to demonstrate technologies necessary for lunar and space exploration. KARI has selected a four-instrument suite as part of their primary mission, which will also include a demonstration to prove Disruption Tolerant Network (DTN) methodologies. The KARI KPLO instruments and their measurement goals are as follows:
LUnar Terrain Imager (LUTI), a high resolution camera to capture selected regions of the lunar surface and take topographical measurements to inform landing site selection for future KARI robotic missions.
Polarimetric Camera (PolCam), which will use various wavelengths to characterize lunar regolity and space weathering processes
KPLO Gamma Ray Spectrometer (KGRS), which will map major elements (Mg, Ni, Cr, Ca, Al, Ti, Fe, Si, O, U, He-3) and water; and
KPLO Magnetometer (KMAG), which will provide a 3-D map of lunar magnetism, and additional magnetic science of lunar swirls and will seek the origin of crustal magnetism in Earth-moon system
NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division is leading the selection of sponsored payloads on KPLO. A division of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, AES uses innovative approaches and public-private partnerships to rapidly develop prototype systems, advance key capabilities, and validate operational concepts for future human missions beyond Earth orbit. Through this partnership opportunity with KARI, AES intends to sponsor payloads to address lunar SKGs and complement KARI’s primary mission objectives and instruments.
NASA plans to host a virtual industry day on September 23, 2016, for potential responders to question about this announcement of opportunity. Connection details about the virtual industry day will be made available on this page as the date nears.
To read the full solicitation, visit: