(ORDO NEWS) — NASA donated the first flight equipment to ESA for the Lunar Pathfinder mission.
The Goddard Space Flight Center has developed a laser retroreflector array that will test new navigation methods for lunar missions.
NASA and ESA plan to launch the Lunar Pathfinder with a future “Commercial Lunar Payload Delivery Service”.
In addition to testing navigation capabilities, Lunar Pathfinder will operate as a commercial communications relay satellite and provide communications services for exploration missions on the lunar surface.
The Lunar Pathfinder mission is led by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL). Teams from NASA, ESA and SSTL completed their inspections when the array arrived at the SSTL facility in Guildford, UK, where it will be installed on the satellite.
Laser retroreflectors are mirror devices that reflect light back to its source; engineers will be able to reflect laser signals from the arrays to accurately measure the position of the spacecraft and test the performance of global navigation satellite systems around the moon.
Testing and developing these capabilities will help NASA navigate missions to and exploration of the Moon.
This instrument will allow NASA to learn more about space geodesy, which uses satellite measurements of celestial bodies to understand their structure.
The Artemis missions will test the technology needed to travel to Mars. NASA does this through cooperative agreements with international partners and commercial companies.
The delivery of the laser retroreflector array is the first milestone in a memorandum of understanding between NASA and ESA that the agencies signed in June.
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