Roughly the size of a briefcase, Lunar Flashlight is a very small satellite being developed and managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory that will use near-infrared lasers and an onboard spectrometer to map ice in permanently shadowed regions near the Moon's south pole. The observations made by the low-cost mission will provide unambiguous information about the presence of water ice deposits inside craters that would be an valuable in-situ resource for future Artemis missions to the lunar surface.
As a technology demonstration mission, Lunar Flashlight will showcase several technological firsts, including being the first mission to look for water ice using a laser reflectometer and the first planetary CubeSat mission to use "green" propulsion - a propellant that is less toxic and safer than hydrazine, a common propellant used by spacecraft.
The mission was selected by NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems in 2014 and is currently funded by the Small Spacecraft Technology program within NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate.
In early 2022, NASA’s Lunar Flashlight mission underwent tests to prepare it for launch. The solar-powered small satellite is shown here with its solar arrays extended in a Georgia Tech clean room. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech