April 11, 2019

Brimrose Spectrometer Selected By NASA For Planned Moon Mission


Sparks, MD--Brimrose has been selected to provide a new spectrometer for a NASA payload as part of the agency’s efforts to send new science and technology demonstrations to the surface of the Moon. The instrument is to be located on a commercial Moon lander to identify water and hydroxyl and their distribution networks.

The Brimrose spectrometer was selected as part of NASA’s Lunar Payload Development Program. It is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative (www.nasa.gov/clps). The Brimrose spectrometer will be a part of the particular program known as the Near Infrared Volatiles Spectrometer Instrument, or NIRVSS. The instrument spans the 1300-4000 nm range, a range that allows for the identification of H2O bands.

"It will be thrilling to start receiving data generated by our spectrometer from the Moon’s surface," said Vladimir Stanislavsky, chief operating officer at Brimrose. "Our core NIR AOTF technology has been used on Earth by major pharmaceutical companies, the food industry for analysis, and for many other applications, but this is the first time it will be used on the Moon to find water."

Brimrose’s core Acousto-Optic Tunable Filter (AOTF) technology is being used in the spectrometer. Using AOTF, an RF signal is applied to a TeO2 crystal, producing acoustic waves within the crystal. There are a variety of advantages to this technology, including the fact that its passband wavelength can be tuned without the need for moving parts. TeO2 also is a very efficient optical material, and AOTFs have an extremely high optical throughput compared to other dispersive optics. The instrument can use the Sun or an included infrared lamp as its light source.

Brimrose already has built the prototype unit, and will deliver the final product by the end of this calendar year, according to Stanislavsky. The instrument is the third generation of this particular configuration, with improvements and lessons-learned applied in each previous iteration. The final unit will undergo protoflight environmental testing prior to delivery to NASA for integration with a future CLPS delivery service.

Brimrose’s ruggedized design matches well to NASA’s specifications. The spectrometer already has participated in thermal-vacuum drill testing at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, during which the instrument operated in lunar-like conditions and monitored drill cuttings from H2O-doped lunar simulant for water ice.

The Brimrose technical team, led by Dr. Feng Jin, is working primarily with the NASA Ames Research Center team in California’s Silicon Valley.

Nine U.S. companies on a CLPS contract with NASA are developing landers. Knowledge from the Moon landers used for the science and technology payloads will be applied to future human lander designs.

The Brimrose spectrometer is currently scheduled for launch in the near future.