Lunar in-situ X-ray Computed Axial Tomography instrument

A versatile, high-performance Lunar in-situ X-ray Computed Axial Tomography instrument (LinXCAT) is under development to offer a wide range of applications in lunar surface science investigations and operations. It will allow the analysis of the internal structure of rock fragments, rock cores, and regolith samples on the surface of the Moon, in robotic landers and rovers, or as an analytical tool for manned missions. LinXCAT relies on a cone-beam geometry with three components:

  • a sample handling stage that secures the sample and precisely rotates,
  • a sharp focus X-ray source that illuminates the sample,
  • an X‑ray image detector that collects absorption images.

Absorption images collected during a scan are returned to Earth for processing and 3D reconstruction using codes specifically developed for planetary XCT. Miniaturized subsystems allow a compact integrated instrument capable of analyzing samples loaded onto the sample rotation stage using robotic means or human operators. LinXCAT can also offer chemical analysis capabilities with the optional implementation of an X-ray fluorescence detector to measure the surface of the sample. A number of XCT concepts have been developed to accept different sample types, in partnership with Honeybee Robotics (HBR): granular regolith would be collected with PlanetVac pneumatic sample acquisition, and small diameter rock cores would be collected with the HBR’s ROPEC drill or derivatives of JPL’s Mars-2020 coring drill.


Concept of Remote X-ray Analyzer


Our on-going efforts to improve the LinXCAT system components aim to maximize the size and types of materials that can be successfully imaged, and to further increase the feature resolution of the instrument allowing characterization of particles, minerals, clasts, and porosity that are at least 20 µm in size (i.e., a system feature resolution of 20 µm). We are developing and integrating these components (50 kV X-ray source and higher fidelity CMOS detector) to demonstrate the final system operation to TRL 6 in the lunar environment.


  • NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
  • SETI Institute, Mountain View, CA
  • University of Texas High-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography (UTCT) Facility, Austin, TX
  • Brookhaven National Laboratory, NY
  • NASA ARC, Moffett Field, CA