Lockheed Martin has finalised a deal with Nasa to deploy the SkyFire 6U cubesat, which is scheduled to be launched to the moon in 2018 aboard Orion’s Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1).

Once launched, SkyFire’s new infrared camera will take high-quality images and help Nasa in expanding knowledge of the moon’s surface.

Part of Nasa’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) programme, SkyFire will be launched with 12 other cubesats on EM-1.

Lockheed Martin SkyFire project manager John Ringelberg said: “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.”

“We’ll be able to see new things with sensors that are less costly to make and send to space.”

Under a public-private partnership (PPP) between Lockheed Martin and Nasa, SkyFire will be built by Lockheed Martin with internal investments.

The US-based University of Colorado Boulder is also partnering with Lockheed Martin on the project.

Lockheed Martin SkyFire principal investigator James Russell said: “The CubeSat will look for specific lunar characteristics like solar illumination areas.

“We’ll be able to see new things with sensors that are less costly to make and send to space.”

Depending upon the success of the mission, the infrared system on SkyFire will be used for inexpensive studies of a planet’s resources before humans arrive in future.

The studies include different tasks such as analysing soil conditions, determining ideal landing sites and discovering a planet’s most livable areas.

Nasa’s EM-1 will be launched by a Space Launch System rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, US.

Image: SkyFire’s new infrared technology will help Nasa enhance its knowledge of the lunar surface. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation.