Proposed Smallsat Mission Concept Selected by NASA for Further Investigation
Columbia, MD—June 3, 2020. Universities Space Research Association (USRA) scientists Adam Goldstein, Cori Fletcher, and Oliver Roberts from the Science and Technology Institute were selected as study team members of the Moon Burst Energetics All-sky Monitor (MoonBEAM) mission by NASA. Out of 32 proposals submitted for this opportunity, only 8 were chosen. The MoonBEAM mission will be deployed into an orbit that will place it a few hundred thousand kilometers from the Earth in order to maximize the number of detected astrophysical transients (short lived, non-periodic events that last from a fraction of a second to minutes in duration), particularly short-duration gamma-ray burst transients.
The MoonBEAM concept was proposed in response to the Astrophysics Science SmallSat Studies Call (AS3). The purpose of extended concept study phase is to further develop mission and science requirements and determine its technical feasibility. The Principal Investigator is C. Michelle Hui (NASA/MSFC). Oliver Roberts, funded by USRA Internal Research and Development investments, has led the detector technology and design and development. To prepare for the concept study proposal, he worked closely with USRA's Cori Fletcher and Adam Goldstein to prepare the science capability of the detectors for the proposal. During the concept study, Cori Fletcher and Adam Goldstein will model the detector response as a function of astrophysical transients’ arrival angle and energy, estimate the background noise and detector sensitivities, and produce simulations of gamma-ray bursts to study the localization capability of MoonBEAM.
“ We are delighted to have USRA scientists as members of one of the eight selected mission concepts for the small satellites initiative by NASA's Astronomy and Astrophysics program. USRA team members will continue to have our full support going forward," said Ghassem Asrar, Senior Vice President of Science at USRA.
The 12-month concept study is intended to strengthen mission requirement, capabilities and engineering design topics such as propulsion and rapid communications. Based on the spacecraft design and limitations, USRA will also perform a detailed feasibility study of the proposed mission science objectives. The USRA team primary responsibilities are focused on mission science objectives and requirements, and evaluation. The final selection of MoonBEAM MO will determine when it will be built and launched.
The unique mission concept permits continuous monitoring of virtually the entire sky, something that is not possible for a single spacecraft in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). While MoonBEAM is designed to localize astrophysical transients to an accuracy of a few degrees, the large distance of MoonBEAM from other similar missions/instruments in LEO will enable the use of light-travel time of detected transients to improve the localization of such events, potentially aiding follow-up searches of gravitational-wave signals from binary neutron stars.
Founded in 1969, under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences at the request of the U.S. Government, the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is a nonprofit corporation chartered to advance space-related science, technology, and engineering. USRA operates scientific institutes and facilities, and conducts other major research and educational programs, under Federal funding. USRA engages the university community and employs in-house scientific leadership, innovative research and development, and project management expertise. More information about USRA is available at www.usra.edu.