Sadly, the LunaH-MAP mini-satellite (or “CubeSat”) that I wrote about a couple of days ago, describing how it would use particle physics to map out the water-ice in lunar soil, has had a serious setback and may not be able to carry out its mission. A stuck valve is the most likely reason that its thruster did not fire when instructed to do so, and so it has sailed past the Moon instead of going into the correct orbit. There’s still some hope that the situation can be salvaged, but it will take some luck. I feel badly for the scientists involved, who worked so hard and now face great disappointment.
In fact at least four and perhaps five of the ten CubeSats launched along with NASA’s Artemis mission have apparently failed in one way or another. This includes the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout and Team Miles, both of which were intended to test and use new technologies for space travel but with whom communication has not been established, and OMOTENASHI, which is intended to study the particle physics environment around the Moon and land a mini-craft on the surface, but which has had communication issues and will not be able to deploy its lander. It’s not clear what’s happening with Lunar-IR either.
One has to wonder whether this very high failure rate is due to the long delays suffered by the Artemis mission. The original launch date was at the end of August; batteries do degrade, and even satellites designed for the rigors of outer space can suffer in Florida’s heat and moisture.