International Lunar Observatory Phase A Study
Executive Summary


In 2003, Lunar Enterprise Corporation hired the services of SpaceDev, Inc. to complete the initial step in the realization of a multi-function observatory on the Moon. SpaceDev is a Poway , CA-based company that creates and sells affordable and innovative space products and solutions to government and commercial enterprises. Their study, delivered on 10 November, illuminated both the feasibility and remaining concerns involved in the creation and placement of a lunar observatory.

Study Objective

“The Lunar Dish Observatory study was initiated as a conceptual examination aimed at demonstrating the feasibility of launching and operating a private commercial Lunar Mission with meaningful scientific astronomy payload.” (SpaceDev )

Mission Objectives & Constraints

“The mission is to provide a conceptual design of a Lunar Dish Observatory that will land near the South Pole of the Moon and perform a radio astronomy mission. The constraints of the mission are that it has to be reliable, low cost and fast to implement.” ( SpaceDev )

Band of Operation

A radio (or, more desirably, multi-wavelength) astronomy mission on the Moon’s greatest advantage is lack of environmental noise, which is significantly decreased in the 384,000 km between Earth and the Moon. Using the frequency band between 1420 MHz and 1640 MHz, the “Water Hole,” is recommended due to its popularity and the need for lunar-based observations to be verified using terrestrial telescopes. SpaceDev also calculates a desired data volume.

Receiver and Antenna System

The report speculates on types of receivers and recommends a two-meter rigid dish antenna with its pedestal specially made by a firm with expertise in the area of designing small size pedestals.

Lunar Landing Sites

Recommended are any of several speculated peaks of eternal light (PEL) that may or may not exist at the South Pole, in order to utilize a solar panel power system. SMART-1 will help to determine the truth of the speculation and an exact landing site can be determined or changed in the latter stages of the observatory’s development.

A high accuracy autonomous landing could be achieved through the dropping of navigational targets in the area of interest prior to landing.

Launch Vehicles

SpaceDev determines that a Russian Dnepr LV supplied by Kosmotras International Space Company would be the safest, easiest and least expensive (US$9M) LV to commission for this mission.

Lunar Trajectory

Once launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome to a 300km LEO, the mission will use several phasing orbits and two maneuvers to achieve lunar orbit in 20 days. The observatory will remain in lunar orbit for up to thirty days to perform lunar imaging. The observatory will perform a soft landing on its legs. Each leg will have a crush structure and shock absorber to soften the landing.

Additional Information

The report details the exact construction concept for each part of the observatory, its travel and post-travel communications systems, landing systems, power systems, control systems, propulsion system, and the flight/travel plan.


SpaceDev can handle the construction and testing of the observatory and its systems at their headquarters in Poway , CA .

A thermal vacuum chamber must be located to conduct environment testing. This testing will be one of the most expensive elements of this mission, but it must be performed to ensure structural integrity. An export license will need to be acquired and International Trade in Arms Regulations will have to be followed in order to ship the observatory to Russia .


“This study clearly demonstrates that it is possible to design and carry out a private commercial Lunar landing mission within the next several years. The technology needed is available commercially and most mission elements are executable.”

Landing accuracy will be the main challenge. Finalized landing plans will wait for SMART-1 or Chandrayaan-1 data to confirm the existence of peaks of eternal light. SpaceDev recommends researching an accurate lunar landing navigation system, possibly with international conglomeration in order for all interested countries to have a standard navigational reference for lunar landing. Achieving this one solution will allow for this mission and can open the way for numerous missions to come.

*A complete copy of the study is available as appropriate. Please contact Space Age Publishing Company for more details.


Figures: 8-9 - Dnepr 10-13 - ILO Orbits 16-22 - ILO Views
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