AstroCube: A Hypothetical Mission to Map Water on Asteroids

AstroCube is a hypothetical 6U cubesat mission that would map the presence of water on a small asteroid. This spectrometer would occupy 1U (10 x 10 x 10 cm) of the cubesat and would be based on the design of the neutron onboard the Lunar polar Hydrogen Mapper (LunaH-Map). In this study, we developed simulations to characterize the neutron response expected for our detector at planetary bodies with a variety of mission parameters including surface composition, detector altitude, and detector size given realistic scenarios of water present in the subsurface. Additionally, we evaluated how AstroCube might correlate geologic formations detected using onboard LiDAR with neutron count rates to autonomously identify areas of interest and “hone in” on such formations to provide increased resolution of water content measurements in these regions. Co-investigators: Dr. Mike Tsay (Busek) and Dr. Craig Hardgrove (ASU). This work was funded by a NASA STTR grant.