Design Engineering

Lockheed Martin partners with NASA for Lunar Imaging CubeSat


General Aerospace lockheed martin NASA

SkyFire, a 6U CubeSat, will launch to the moon in 2018 with Orion’s Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1).

In 1969, the United States sent the first man to the moon. Ever since then, scientists and researchers have been captivated, hoping to find new ways to explore it.

SkyFire NASA CubeSat Lockheed MartinLockheed Martin is hoping to further unlock the moon’s mysteries by partnering with NASA to deploy SkyFire, a 6U CubeSat planned to launch to the moon in 2018 with Orion’s Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1).

SkyFire is a public-private partnership between Lockheed Martin and NASA.

Lockheed Martin will build the satellite with internal investments, and the newly-signed contract will grant Lockheed Martin access to send the satellite to the moon aboard the EM-1 launch. NASA will in turn receive data from the mission.


The Lockheed Martin development team primarily consists of early-career engineers in partnership with the University of Colorado Boulder.

“SkyFire’s lunar flyby will pioneer brand new infrared technology, enabling scientists to fill strategic gaps in lunar knowledge that have implications for future human space exploration,” said John Ringelberg, Lockheed Martin’s SkyFire project manager.

The infrared camera will take high quality images with a simple, lightweight unit. The unit had been adapted to easily maneuver in space. If successful, the infrared system could to explore planet’s resources before humans arrive.

“The CubeSat will look for specific lunar characteristics like solar illumination areas,” said James Russell, Lockheed Martin SkyFire principal investigator. “We’ll be able to see new things with sensors that are less costly to make and send to space.”

Russell explains that for such a small CubeSat, the SkyFire has a chance to make a big impact on future missions.

As part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program, SkyFire will catch a ride to the moon with 12 other CubeSats on EM-1.


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