The ShadowCam instrument was stowed inside its shipping container on 12 August 2021, starting the first leg of a long journey that will eventually place it into lunar orbit. The camera, which is based on the successful Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera Narrow Angle Camera, left Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) in San Diego and departed the United States for South Korea on 13 August 2021. During its time at the Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), the Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) engineering team will mount the ShadowCam instrument to the satellite, along with four other Korean-built science instruments, before shipping the completed satellite to the United States for launch from Cape Canaveral.
ShadowCam was selected to fly as a NASA contribution to the KARI-led KPLO mission in April, 2017. The instrument will enable detailed imaging of shadowed regions of the Moon, and in particular permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) near the Moon's poles, which are of interest because they host water ice and other frozen volatiles. As NASA prepares to send humans back to the Moon, the scientific community has made it a priority to discover the contents of these enigmatic regions. ShadowCam will provide critical information about the distribution and accessibility of volatiles in PSRs at the spatial scales (1.7-meter pixels) required to both mitigate risks and maximize the results of future exploration activities, both human and robotic.
Before the shipping container was moved out of the clean room, it underwent a dry nitrogen purge to force out any moisture — thus safeguarding the electronics (note the thin, green nitrogen delivery tube just beyond and above the shipping box in the image above). The nitrogen-purged shipping box and instrument were then packaged safely into a padded shipping crate, loaded and secured into a courier van and taken to the airport for its safe journey to South Korea.
ShadowCam and KPLO are scheduled to launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex, Cape Canaveral, Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket around this time next year. The team is excited to share the first leg of ShadowCam's trip to the Moon! Check back often for more exciting news.
Posted by Mark Robinson on 18 August 2021