International Lunar Observatory Association

SpaceDev ILO Phase One Executive Summary, 2003


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 oflaunching 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 theMoon and perform a radio astronomy mission. The constraints of the missionare that it has to be reliable, low cost and fast to implement. (SpaceDev )

Band of Operation

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

Receiver and Antenna System

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

Lunar Landing Sites

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

A high accuracy autonomous landing could be achievedthrough the dropping of navigational targets in the area of interestprior to landing.

Launch Vehicles

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

Lunar Trajectory

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

Additional Information

The report details the exact construction concept foreach part of the observatory, its travel and post-travel communicationssystems, landing systems, power systems, control systems, propulsionsystem, and the flight/travel plan.


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

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


This study clearly demonstrates that it is possibleto design and carry out a private commercial Lunar landing mission withinthe next several years. The technology needed is available commerciallyand most mission elements are executable.

Landing accuracy will be the main challenge. Finalizedlanding plans will wait for SMART-1 or Chandrayaan-1 data to confirmthe existence of peaks of eternal light. SpaceDev recommends researchingan accurate lunar landing navigation system, possibly with internationalconglomeration in order for all interested countries to have a standardnavigational reference for lunar landing. Achieving this one solutionwill allow for this mission and can open the way for numerous missionsto come.