SWIR in Space

Short Wave Infrared (SWIR) Camers On-Board LCROSS Mission to the Moon

The search for water on the moon continues with NASA's LCROSS Mission. In 1999, concentrated hydrogen signatures were detected in permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles by NASA's Lunar Prospector. These readings might be an indication of lunar water-ice, and the mission of NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) spacecraft is to find out if that is the case.

Two of Sensors Unlimited's SWIR-InGaAs cameras have been launched into space and are now in transit to the moon aboard the LCROSS shepherding spacecraft. Click here for our news release.

Sensors Unlimited also hosted a MoonPie LCROSS Lunar Crash Party in Princeton, NJ to celebrate this exciting event.

According to NASA, the main mission of LCROSS is to confirm the presence or absence of water ice on the moon.  At 7:30 AM (EDT) on Friday, October 9, 2009, the LCROSS spacecraft will separate into two sections, with the Centaur rocket impacting the lunar surface, kicking up a large plume of dust .  The shepherding spacecraft section, with Sensors Unlimited's SWIR cameras, will follow four minutes later to image and analyze the resultant dust plume for water vapor, an important resource for sustainable exploration. Sensors Unlimited's SWIR cameras will help with water concentration maps, monitoring ejecta cloud morphology and determining NIR grain properties. Sensors Unlimited’s InGaAs cameras are ideal for detecting the strong moisture contrast in the short wave infrared.  

NASA documents note that debris plumes are expected to be visible from Earth- and space-based telescopes, 10-to 12-inches and larger.  The LCROSS lunar impact will be broadcast live on October 9, 2009 on NASA TV. 

For more information about this mission, please visit the NASA LCROSS official site and the LCROSS project site.