NASA’s Lunar Flashlight SmallSat Launches to Look for Moon’s Water Ice

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A small satellite from NASA established communications with mission controllers following its launch on Sunday from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida to perform its four-month journey to its target orbit and look for the presence of surface water ice in the dark craters of the moon’s South Pole.

The space agency’s Lunar Flashlight spacecraft took off as a rideshare with HAKUTO-R Mission 1 of Japan-based lunar exploration company ispace aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, NASA said Monday.

CNBC reported the ispace Mission 1 is expected to deploy a lunar lander on the moon’s surface by the end of April. Aboard the lander are small rovers and payloads for several companies and government agencies from countries, such as the U.S., Japan, Canada and the United Arab Emirates.

NASA’s Lunar Flashlight will use a type of green propellant and search for water ice using a reflectometer with four lasers that emit near-infrared light. 

Researchers will compare the data collected by the satellite with other observations gathered through other lunar missions to help shed light on the distribution of water ice on the lunar surface.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory oversees Lunar Flashlight, which is funded through the Small Spacecraft Technology program within the agency’s space technology mission directorate.

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