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Prelaunch processing of ArgoMoon spacecraft
OperatorASI / NASA
COSPAR ID2022-156G Edit this at Wikidata
SATCAT no.55907
Mission duration610 days
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft typeCubeSat
Bus6U CubeSat
Payload mass14 kg (31 lb)
Dimensions12 cm x 24 cm x 36 cm
Start of mission
Launch date16 November 2022, 06:47:44 UTC[1]
RocketSLS Block 1
Launch siteKSC, LC-39B
Orbital parameters
Reference systemHeliocentric orbit

ArgoMoon is a CubeSat that was launched into a heliocentric orbit on Artemis 1, the maiden flight of the Space Launch System, on 16 November 2022 at 06:47:44 UTC.[1][2] The objective of the ArgoMoon spacecraft is to take detailed images of the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage following Orion separation, an operation that will demonstrate the ability of a cubesat to conduct precise proximity maneuvers in deep space. ASI has not confirmed nor denied whether this took place, but several images of the Earth and the Moon were taken.[3]

ArgoMoon will complete its operations using proprietary software for autonomous navigation. The spacecraft will also demonstrate long-distance optical communication with Earth.[4][5]


The Orion spacecraft is the primary payload of Artemis 1. The main focus of the Artemis 1 mission is demonstrating SLS and Orion operations, however the absence of cargo allowed for the opportunity to launch several low-mass cubesats along with Orion as secondary payloads.

In September 2015, NASA opened an invitation for proposals of 6U cubesats to be launched as part of the mission. Among the proposals evaluated by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), the European Space Agency (ESA), and finally NASA, the Argotec proposal was one of the selected spacecraft. ArgoMoon will be the only European satellite to participate in the mission.[6][7]


Argotec engineers noticed the inability of the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage to send telemetry during the CubeSat deployment phase, which occurs a few hours after the separation of the Orion spacecraft. It was this issue that triggered Argotec to propose a satellite capable of performing a proximity flight with the ICPS, able to take photographs and provide an inspection to confirm the success of CubeSat deployment.

Before being injected into a heliocentric orbit because of the lunar flyby, ArgoMoon will perform a propulsive maneuver to close in a geocentric orbit. The second part of the mission will last a few months up to the natural decay of the satellite. During these months, the satellite will collect telemetry validating the nanotechnology on board the platform in the hostile environment of deep space. Up to now, CubeSats were mainly targeted to Earth observation missions, where the satellite are naturally shielded from radiation by the Earth's magnetic field.

Satellite configuration[edit]

ArgoMoon will have a hybrid propulsion system, monopropellant and cold gas thrusters, to provide attitude control (orientation) and orbital maneuvering. LMP-103S monopropellant is based on ammonium dinitramide. Cold gas thrusters use R-134a hydrofluorocarbon.[8]

  • Primary propulsion: for orbit maintenance during the proximity flight and for a change of the orbit to avoid the lunar flyby;
  • Secondary propulsion: as actuator for attitude control law, since the satellite is too far from the Earth to use the Earth's magnetic field.

Another peculiarity of ArgoMoon is the use of radiation-resistant components. The absence of the protection provided by the magnetosphere requires the selection of components that have been designed and tested to withstand radiation. In order to provide detailed photographs of the mission, ArgoMoon is equipped with a narrow field of view camera to acquire inspection photography. This optical payload is supported by another one with wide field of view to provide images to the onboard computer where an imaging software process them in order to perform autonomous navigation and target fine pointing.

Project and development[edit]

In September 2015, Argotec delivered the ArgoMoon proposal to NASA. The proposal was reviewed and approved by Italian Space Agency (ASI), European Space Agency (ESA) and then by NASA. The project is coordinated by the Italian Space Agency and the satellite launch is planned as a secondary payload of the Artemis 1 mission.[9]

Argotec engineers worked in the definition of the mission objectives and phases, the mission analysis, and the configuration of the satellite. The electrical power subsystem, the on-board computer, and the on-board software are designed and developed by Argotec as well, including the imaging software for target recognition and pointing.

The selection of the components or units vendors has preferred European companies where available.[10][11][12]

See also[edit]

The 10 CubeSats flying in the Artemis 1 mission
The 3 CubeSat missions removed from Artemis 1


  1. ^ a b Roulette, Joey; Gorman, Steve (16 November 2022). "NASA's next-generation Artemis mission heads to moon on debut test flight". Reuters. Retrieved 16 November 2022.
  2. ^ Clark, Stephen (12 October 2021). "Adapter structure with 10 CubeSats installed on top of Artemis moon rocket". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 23 October 2021.
  3. ^ "ArgoMoon - Satellite Missions - eoPortal Directory". directory.eoportal.org. Archived from the original on 18 August 2022. Retrieved 17 August 2022.
  4. ^ "NASA's Space Launch System to Boost Science with Secondary Payloads". NASA. 1 February 2016. Archived from the original on 1 January 2023. Retrieved 12 March 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ ""ArgoMoon: the Italian excellence at one "click" from the Moon"" (PDF). Argotec. 2 February 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 February 2021. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  6. ^ "NASA firms up Space Launch System nanosat manifest". Techsite. 27 May 2016. Archived from the original on 10 September 2017. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  7. ^ "NASA firms up Space Launch System nanosat manifest". The Register. 27 May 2016. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  8. ^ "ArgoMoon Propulsion systems". VACCO Propulsion Systems. 2017. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  9. ^ Clark, Stephen (28 April 2017). "NASA confirms first flight of Space Launch System will slip to 2019". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  10. ^ "Italian Space Industry" (PDF). National Catalogue of the Italian Space Agency Edition 2017. 2017. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  11. ^ Krebs, Gunter Dirk (18 May 2020). "ArgoMoon". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  12. ^ "Outstanding Moon exploration Technologies demonstrated by Nano Semi-Hard Impactor" (PDF). JAXA. 6 January 2017. Retrieved 12 March 2021.