|Mission type||Technology demonstration|
|Spacecraft type||6U CubeSat|
|Launch mass||14 kg (31 lb)|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||December 2019|
|Rocket||SLS Block 1|
|Launch site||Kennedy LC-39B|
Cislunar Explorers is a pair of spacecraft that will show the viability of water electrolysis propulsion and interplanetary optical navigation to orbit the Moon. Both spacecraft will launch mated together as two L-shaped 3-Unit CubeSats, which fit together as a 6-Unit CubeSat of about 10×20×30 cm.
The technology demonstrator spacecraft pair is being developed at Cornell University in New York, by a team of researchers, graduate students, and undergraduates. It will be one of thirteen CubeSats to be carried with the Orion EM-1 mission into a heliocentric orbit in cislunar space on the maiden flight of the Space Launch System scheduled to launch in 2019.
The two spacecraft feature an unusual water electrolysis propulsion system that splits the bond between hydrogen and oxygen, producing combustible gaseous mixture that can be used as engine propellant. This propulsion system will be used to enter lunar orbit. The mission designers comment that if this water-based propulsion technology is successful, it may enable in-situ resources for refueling landers for commercial or science purposes. Such a spacecraft could refuel at space-bound water sources, like asteroids, instead of bringing all the needed fuel along with it from Earth.
Since the purpose of the Cislunar Explorers is to test a novel propulsion system, they will simply be injected in "any lunar orbit" and maintain it for as long as possible. Cislunar Explorers will navigate completely autonomously, with minimal control from Earth. Cislunar Explorers will each use commercial cameras that enable them to view the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun. By computing the sizes of each of these objects and their locations relative to one another, the two spacecraft will deduce their locations.
- The 13 CubeSats flying in the Exploration Mission 1
- Lunar Flashlight will map exposed water ice on the Moon
- Near-Earth Asteroid Scout by NASA is a solar sail spacecraft that will encounter a near-Earth asteroid
- BioSentinel is an astrobiology mission
- SkyFire by Lockheed Martin
- Lunar IceCube, by the Morehead State University
- CubeSat for Solar Particles (CuSP)
- Lunar Polar Hydrogen Mapper (LunaH-Map), designed by the Arizona State University
- EQUULEUS, submitted by JAXA and the University of Tokyo
- OMOTENASHI, submitted by JAXA, is a lunar lander
- ArgoMoon, designed by Argotec and coordinated by Italian Space Agency
- Cislunar Explorers, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
- Earth Escape Explorer (CU-E3), University of Colorado Boulder
- Team Miles, by Fluid & Reason, LLC. Florida
- Other water-based propelled spacecraft
- Clark, Stephen (28 April 2017). "NASA confirms first flight of Space Launch System will slip to 2019". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
- Cislunar Explorers. Dirk Krebs, Gunter's Space Page, 2017.
- Cislunar Explorers - Streamlined, sustainable spacecraft. Wordpress, 2017.
- Anderson, Gina; Porter, Molly (8 June 2017). "Three DIY CubeSats Score Rides on NASA's First Flight of Orion, Space Launch System". NASA.
- Cube Quest Challenge Team Spotlight: Cislunar Explorers. Jennifer Harbaugh, NASA. 22 May 2017.
- Water-Powered CubeSat Satellite Shoots for the Moon. Sarah Lewin, Space.com, 16 September 2016.
- Cornell's quest: Make the first CubeSat to orbit the moon. Tom Fleischman, The Cornell Chronicle. 15 September 2016.
- Cislunar Explorers - Optical Navigation. Wordpress, 2017.