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The distribution and quantity of surficial in-situ lunar resources, such as water ice and ilmenite (FeTiO3), is currently highly uncertain. Moreover, planned near-future lunar orbiter missions are limited to a volatile-mapping spatial resolution of several km.
VMMO, for Volatile and Mineralogy Mapping Orbiter, is a low-cost 12U Cubesat that comprises the Lunar Volatile and Mineralogy Mapper (LVMM) science payload, the Compact LunAr Ionizing Radiation Environment (CLAIRE) monitoring payload, a COTS electronics test bed, and the supporting 12U Cubesat bus with dual ion and cold-gas propulsion, direct-to-Earth S-band and 1560nm optical communications, on-board data processing and a suite of altitude and pointing sensors for semiautonomous, vision-assisted navigation. VMMO will most likely be deployed from a commercial lunar transportation provider, such as Astrobotics, and injected into a suitable near-polar orbit. On-board propulsion will be used to achieve a stable near-frozen polar orbit for the subsequent science operations.
The compact LVMM is a multi-wavelength Chemical Lidar (<6.1 kg) using fiber lasers emitting simultaneously at 532nm, 1064nm and 1560nm, for stand-off mapping of lunar water/ice distribution using active laser illumination. The active measurements will focus on selected craters in the lunar South pole, such as Shackleton and Faustini, that contain permanently-shadowed regions that could shelter water ice deposits. This combination of spectral channels can provide very sensitive discrimination of water/ice to below 0.5% in various Mare and Highland regolith, based on pre-flight bread-board validations. The use of single-mode fiber lasers enables a spatial resolution of about 10m at the lunar surface.
LVMM can also be used in a passive multispectral mode at 300nm, 532nm, 1064nm and 1560nm to map the lunar ilmenite in-situ resource distribution during the lunar day using known characteristics of surface-reflected solar illumination.
This paper discusses the VMMO augmented science configuration and the resultant mission architecture and data products.