International Lunar Observatory Association

SpaceDev ILO Phase Three Executive Summary: "Human Service Mission to the ILOs" (2005)

Objective / Constraints

The Human Servicing Mission study was conducted to create a conceptual mission architecture and mission design for a low-cost, human servicing mission to the Lunar south pole targeted for the period of 2010 to 2015. The mission objective is to send a crew of four people to the site of the International Lunar Observatories (ILOs), where they would stay for seven to ten days. Mission constraints include available technology and the desired launch date range of 2010 to 2015. The mission also requires precision landing techniques in order to put the crew and their habitats close enough to the existing ILOs to perform a useful servicing mission.


This study explored existing technology, technology currently under development, and proposed technology that could be developed by NASA, other countries or the private sector in time to be incorporated into the mission. The study combined those technology capabilities to arrive at an elegantly simple solution, which results in a mission that is low in risk and low in cost. The study made use of the following resources, among others:

  1. Historical Lunar missions, both manned and unmanned, including Surveyor, Apollo, and the Russian Moon landing attempt.
  2. Current Lunar research, including the Smart-1 mission and NASA’s proposed $104 billion return to the Moon.
  3. Past SpaceDev Lunar mission studies, including Phase I and II studies for the International Lunar Observatory.
  4. SpaceDev on-orbit experience in microsatellite design.
  5. SpaceDev experience with hybrid propulsion systems, including Spaceship One and the Streaker Small Launch Vehicle currently being developed.
  6. Input from the entire SpaceDev engineering team, through a brainstorming session and peer review of the final mission concept.


The resulting mission concept consists of two phases: the pre-deployment phase, in which fuel for the return trip will be placed in lunar orbit, and habitat and cargo will be placed on the lunar surface; and the crew phase which begins with a series of unmanned launches to place the crew capsule, Lunar landers, habitat and their propulsions in LEO. Once these vehicles are checked out on-orbit, the crew will be launched in the SpaceDev Dream Chaser orbital space plane.

Along with the Dream Chaser and crew capsule, the mission utilizes Genisis Pathfinder Habitats (currently in development by Bigelow Aerospace), and a vehicle SpaceDev has designed known as the Autonomous Lunar Orbit Hopper Architecture (ALOHA). Aside from the launch vehicles used to transport cargo to either LEO or GTO, SpaceDev’s safe hybrid propulsion will be used in all phases of the mission.

This study found that proposed launch vehicles (SpaceX Falcon series of launch vehicles) would be the least expensive, followed by existing international launch vehicles, and then existing domestic vehicles.


This study concluded that an aggressive schedule with a start date of June 2006 could launch before the end of 2012 for a total cost of well under $10 billion.

Three key technologies were identified whose early development is required to support a human mission to the Moon for the period between 2010 and 2015. These include: hardware and control system for the Autonomous Lunar Orbit Hopper, precision autonomous lunar landing, and hardware and software for autonomous docking. The first two technologies – hardware and software for an autonomous lander – directly support development of the first ILO by providing a means to land on a peak of eternal light.