Ball combines sustainability and science to study the Moon

Ball Aerospace’s delivery of the instrument for a NASA Moon observing mission highlights how teamwork is bringing sustainability to space.

Last year, Ball Aerospace delivered the science instrument for NASA’s Lunar Compact InfraRed Imaging System, known as L-CIRiS, to the University of Colorado Boulder Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). The mission is led by principal investigator, Dr. Paul Hayne of LASP.

Once deployed on the lunar surface, L-CIRiS will collect first-of-their-kind panoramic images in the infrared spectrum to study the temperature and geology of the Moon’s surface for NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative in support of NASA’s Artemis program.

The completion of the instrument also marks a collaboration with Ball Aerospace’s parent company, Ball Corporation, to use a proprietary innovative sustainable material.

Teamwork makes the sustainability dream work

One of the essential components of the instrument, called a Zenith mirror, also brings sustainability to space missions. The zenith mirror is made from a sustainable recycled aluminum alloy, ReAl®.

ReAl® is Ball Corporation’s proprietary, patented and market-leading alloy for maximizing the sustainability of impact extruded aluminum containers. ReAl® was designed in collaboration between engineers from Ball Corporation’s Aerosol and Beverage divisions and leverages the inherent mechanical strength of recycled aluminum cans to increase light weighting possibilities of impact extruded containers, for up to 50% carbon footprint reduction versus standard alloys.

“The inclusion of ReAl® on the L-CIRiS instrument is an incredibly exciting opportunity that reflects the strength of cross-divisional collaboration, as well as being a testament of Ball’s commitment to aluminum innovation,” said Jason Galley, senior director Innovation & Business Development at Ball Aerosol Packaging.

Ball Aerospace and Aerosol teams worked together to ensure ReAl® also met the qualifications to function in the space environment.

The lowdown on L-CIRiS and the Zenith mirror

To capture the best infrared data on the Moon, L-CIRiS will use the Zenith mirror to measure its own internal background signal by periodically looking upward at the blackness of space, a featureless scene with minimal thermal emission. The background signal, measured in this way, is subtracted from all images of the Moon for more accuracy.

“L-CIRiS is an example of Ball Aerospace’s commitment to developing technology that will enable the science of tomorrow, coupled with the sustainable and innovative re-use of recycled aluminum for a space application,” said Alberto Conti, vice president and general manager, Civil Space at Ball Aerospace.

By partnering with Ball Corporation’s packaging divisions, Ball Aerospace was able to deliver a low-cost, effective science tool, built with a sustainable material, that will help NASA better understand Earth’s closest cosmic neighbor.