Lunar Polar Hydrogen Mapper


Lunar Polar Hydrogen Mapper
Rendering of the LunaH-Map spacecraft
Mission typeLunar orbiter
Mission duration96 days (planned)
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft typeCubeSat
Bus6U CubeSat
ManufacturerArizona State University
Launch mass14 kg (31 lb) [1]
Dimensions10 cm × 20 cm × 30 cm (3.9 in × 7.9 in × 11.8 in)
Start of mission
Launch dateNovember 2021 (planned) [2]
RocketSLS Block 1
Launch siteKSC, LC-39B
End of mission
DeactivatedCrash in south pole crater on the Moon after 96 days (planned)
Orbital parameters
Reference systemSelenocentric orbit
RegimePolar orbit
Periselene altitude5 km (3.1 mi)
Period10 hours
LunaH-Map logo.png
LunaH-Map mission logo  

Lunar Polar Hydrogen Mapper, or LunaH-Map, is one of 13 CubeSats planned to be launched with Artemis 1 in 2021. Along with Lunar IceCube and Lunar Flashlight, LunaH-Map will help investigate the possible presence of water-ice on the Moon.[1] Arizona State University began development of LunaH-Map after being awarded a contract by NASA in early 2015. The development team consists of about 20 professionals and students led by Craig Hardgrove, the principal investigator.[3]


LunaH-Map's primary objective is to map the abundance of hydrogen down to one meter beneath the surface of the lunar south pole. It will be inserted into a polar orbit around the Moon, with its periselene located near the lunar south pole, initially passing above Shackleton crater.[1] LunaH-Map will provide a high resolution map of the abundance and distribution of hydrogen rich compounds, like water, in this region of the Moon and expand on the less accurate maps made by previous missions. This information may then be used to improve scientific understanding of how water is created and spread throughout the Solar System or used by future manned missions for life support and fuel production.[4]

LunaH-Map, along with other long distance CubeSat missions like Mars Cube One, will demonstrate vital technologies for including CubeSats in other interplanetary missions.[5]


LunaH-Map was conceived in a discussion between Craig Hardgrove and future LunaH-Map chief engineer, Igor Lazbin, about issues with the spatial resolution of various neutron detectors in use around Mars. Instruments like Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons on the Curiosity rover can only make measurements of about 3 m (9.8 ft) in radius from between the rear wheels of the rover, while on orbit neutron detectors, like the High Energy Neutron Detector on the 2001 Mars Odyssey probe, can only provide large, inaccurate maps over hundreds of square kilometers.[4] Similar issues are present in current maps of hydrogen distributions on the Moon, so Hardgrove designed LunaH-Map to orbit closer to the lunar south pole than previous crafts to improve the resolution of these maps.

By April 2015, Hardgrove had assembled a team composed of members of various government, academic and private institutions and drafted a proposal to NASA. In early 2015, LunaH-Map was one of two CubeSats chosen by NASA's Science Mission Directorate through the Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx) program, along with Q-PACE.[4][6]


Because of the scope of this mission, several unique challenges need to be addressed in implementing hardware. Typical low Earth orbit (LEO) CubeSats can use "off-the-shelf" hardware, or parts available commercially for other uses, but because LunaH-Map is intended to run longer and travel further than most LEO CubSat missions, commercial parts cannot be expected to perform reliably for the mission duration unmodified. Also, unlike most conventional CubeSats, LunaH-Map will need to navigate to its desired orbit after leaving the launch vehicle, so it will need to be equipped with its own propulsion system.[7]

The primary science instrument will be a scintillation neutron detector composed of elpasolite (Cs2YLiCl6:Ce or CLYC). This material is a scintillator, which measurably glows when it interacts with thermal and epithermal neutrons. LunaH-Map's neutron detector will consist of an array of sixteen 2.5 × 2.5 × 2 cm CLYC scintillators.[8]

See also

The 13 CubeSats flying in the Artemis 1 mission


  1. ^ a b c Harbaugh, Jennifer (2 February 2016). "LunaH-Map: University-Built CubeSat to Map Water-Ice on the Moon". NASA. Retrieved 10 March 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ "NASAs large SLS rocket unlikely to fly before at least late 2021". Ars Technica. 17 July 2019. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  3. ^ Cassis, Nikki (25 August 2015). "ASU chosen to lead lunar CubeSat mission". Arizona State University. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Dreier, Casey (2 September 2015). "CubeSats to the Moon". Planetary Society. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  5. ^ Stirone, Shannon (8 October 2015). "CubeSats are Paving Mankind's Way Back to the Moon and Beyond". Popular Science. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  6. ^ Hambleton, Kathryn; Newton, Kim; Ridinger, Shannon (2 February 2016). "Space Launch System's First Flight to Send Small Sci-Tech Satellites to Space". NASA. Retrieved 10 March 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ Seckel, Scott (23 November 2015). "How to build a spacecraft: The Beginning". Arizona State University. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  8. ^ Hardgrove, Craig. "LunaH-Map CubeSat" (PDF). Arizona State University. Retrieved 10 March 2021.

External links

  • Official website
  • The Lunar Polar Hydrogen Mapper mission: Mapping hydrogen distribution in permanently shadowed regions of the Moon's South Pole (Presentation to Lunar Exploration Analysis Group, 2015)
  • Interview with Craig Hardgrove on ASU Connections Podcast