NASA’s AFRL set to design a cislunar pathfinder

Over the past decades, Space technology has positively impacted our daily activities with improvements like a surge of innovations, increased scientific knowledge, and the formation of new markets. Additionally, launching humans into space and the moon generated a new understanding of the moon’s composition and the entire solar system. Although space exploration is potentially dangerous, the benefits have outweighed the drawbacks. Further space explorations have necessitated the innovation of complex spacecraft that can withstand the harsh space climate.

NASA seeks to launch a crewed ship back to the moon by 2024, and they have therefore designed a pathfinder spaceship that can track objects in the cislunar space. Working alongside the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), the satellite aims to find items in the moon orbital that would have otherwise been hidden. Additionally, Col. Eric Felt, the managing director of Space Vehicles Directorate in AFRL, notes that the satellite will increase the scientific knowledge of objects near the moon and beyond due to a few satellites that operate in the lunar orbit and its vicinity.

NASA states that Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s Administrator, and Gen. Jay Raymond will meet to discuss funding for crewed spacecraft, quality practices to ensure safe space activities, interplanetary defense systems, and increasing scientific knowledge through space explorations. The pathfinder’s construction initiation occurs amidst NASA’s plan to send a crewed ship in the NASA’s Artemis program. Felt remarked in the yearly AMOS conference that the area between the outer Earth’s orbit and the outer Luna’s orbit is an “area of shame” since the US conducts minimal space activities in the region.

Consequently, Felt further emphasized the US’s need to conduct space explorations in the region of shame and monitor objects while partnering with other commercial space industries. Felt termed the project Cislunar Highway Patrol System (CHPS) spelled as chips, and it will be orbiting around the moon. Furthermore, the satellite will be monitoring objects on the moon orbital, the space, and the surface of the Earth. NASA will transmit the information obtained by the satellite to the Earth’s station for an in-depth analysis.

The Trump administration has portrayed a different picture from the collaboration between the military and NASA. Therefore, the majority of citizens think of planetary defense as shielding the Earth from asteroids. However, the planetary protection goes beyond protecting the Earth to discover, monitor, and diverting an asteroid strike. Despite the collaboration, minimal efforts have occurred to improve the CHPS mission plan since previous projects like the DARPA have increased their budget.