Proposed Lunar Meteoroid Impacts Observer.
Credit: LUMIO project

A CubeSat orbiting in the Earth–Moon region has been evaluated to provide data on flashes produced by impacts of meteoroids with the Moon’s surface.

Called the Lunar Meteoroid Impacts Observer, or LUMIO, the space mission concept would contribute to “Lunar Situational Awareness.”

LUMIO is an awarded winner of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) SysNova Competition “Lunar CubeSats for Exploration,” and as such it is now under consideration for future implementation by ESA.

Credit: LUMIO project

Flash-spotting camera

In a paper led by Ana Cipriano, Delft University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands, LUMIO is described as a 12U CubeSat, placed at Earth–Moon L2 point. It is equipped with an optical instrument,

the LUMIO-Cam, which is able to spot the flashes produced by impacts of meteoroids with the lunar surface.

Joining Cipriano in detailing LUMIO is Diogene Dei Tos and Francesco Topputo of the Department of Aerospace Science and Technology, Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy. The research work — Orbit Design for LUMIO: The Lunar Meteoroid Impacts Observer – has been published in the journal, Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences.

Far side monitoring

LUMIO would monitor the lunar far side, complementing Earth-based observations of the lunar near side.

Credit: LUMIO project

To date, lunar meteoroid impact estimates of the larger than 1-kilogram meteoroid flux at the Moon varies across the scientific literature. Some estimates peg it at 1,290 impacts per year, to perhaps 23,000 impacts per year.

Cipriano and her colleagues explain that, in part, the discrepancies across the literature are due to the current lack of knowledge regarding meteoroid impact physics, such as the luminous efficiency of an impactor and a non-uniformity on how lunar meteoroid impacts data is processed, “As such, more experimental data on lunar meteoroid impacts is still required,” they add.

Viable tool

“The mission implements a novel orbit design and latest CubeSat technologies to serve as a pioneer in demonstrating how CubeSats can become a viable tool for deep space science and exploration,” the paper explains.

The LUMIO mission is conceived to address the following issues:

  • Science Question – What are the spatial and temporal characteristics of meteoroids impacting the lunar surface?
  • Science Goal – Advance the understanding of how meteoroids evolve in the cislunar space by observing the flashes produced by their impacts with the lunar surface.
  • Science Objective – Characterize the flux of meteoroids impacting the lunar surface.

Halo orbits

For LUMIO, a number of potential orbit families were considered. As a result, L2 halo orbits have been selected.

Credit: LUMIO project

A duty of LUMIO is to investigate the characteristics of meteoroids and improve the meteoroid models of the solar system. “This might lead to a further study of the sources of these meteoroids, such as asteroids in the near-Earth environment and comets,” the research team concludes.

For more information, go to the paper — Orbit Design for LUMIO: The Lunar Meteoroid Impacts Observer—published September 19th at:

https://doi.org/10.3389/fspas.2018.00029

Also, go to this informative video at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=8&v=s3st5Y4PpRE

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