International Lunar Observatory


International Lunar Observatory (ILO)
NamesILO-X (Precursor Mission, Launching Late 2021 on IM-1 NOVA-C)

ILO-1 (Flagship Mission to Moon South Pole, Launching Late 2022-23 TBD)

ILO-2 (Backup Mission, TBD)
Mission typeTechnology, Astronomy
OperatorInternational Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA Hawai'i)
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft typeTBD
ManufacturerLander: TBD
Telescope: Canadensys Aerospace
Payload massTelescope: ≈2 kg
Start of mission
Launch date2022–23 (planned)[1]
Launch siteTBD
Moon lander
TypeSchmidt–Cassegrain telescope
Diameter7 cm
Focal length18 cm
Wavelengthsvisible spectrum
Resolution6.4-megapixel [2]
Capacity115,000 bps[3]
TWTA power5 W [3]

The International Lunar Observatory (ILO-1) is a private, scientific and commercial lunar mission to place a small observatory on the South Pole of the Moon to conduct astrophysical studies using an optical telescope.[4] The mission, planned for launch in 2022 or 2023, aims to prove a conceptual design for a lunar observatory that would be reliable, low cost, and fast to implement. A precursor mission, ILO-X, is planned for launch on 7 November 2021 aboard the Intuitive Machines IM-1 mission.[1] It is hoped to be a technology precursor to a future radio observatory on the Moon, and other commercial initiatives.[2][5][6]

The ILO-1 mission, announced on July 2017,[7] is being organized by the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) and the Space Age Publishing Company. The prime contractors are Moon Express, providing the MX-1E lander,[8] and Canadensys Aerospace, that is providing the optical telescope system.[9][10] The estimated cost in 2004 was of US$50 million.[11]


The ILO-1 mission, originally planned to be launched in 2008,[12] was initially scheduled to be launched in July 2020 with an Electron rocket from New Zealand.[13] The mission was called Moon Express Lunar Scout, and it would have used the MX-1E lander to deliver the observatory on top of the Malapert Mountain, a 5 km tall peak in the Aitken Basin region that has an uninterrupted direct line of sight to Earth, which facilitates communications any time.[8][14] The status of these plans is currently (March 2020) unknown, as the launch of the MX-1E lander with an Electron rocket was cancelled sometime before February 2020; no launch date or launch rocket for the MX-1E has been since announced, leaving the status of it and ILO-1 unknown.[15]

The small robotic observatory is designed to withstand the long lunar nights so it is expected to operate for a few years.[14] Moon Express would have also utilized the mission to explore the Moon's South Pole for mineral resources including water ice.[8][5] The optical portion of the system is a Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope.[16] The optical system uses a 7 cm diameter lens, with an 18 cm focal plane, a 13 cm f/5.6 aperture,[5][17] and 6.4-megapixel resolution.[2] The telescope system is "about the size of a shoe-box" with a mass of approximately 2 kg.[2][5]

Some partners include the National Astronomical Observatory of China (NAOC), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the newly formed Southeast Asia Principal Operating Partnership, and others.[3][18]


The mission's objective is to conduct astrophysical observations from the surface of the Moon, whose lack of atmosphere eliminates much of the need for costly adaptive optics technology.[19] Also, since the Moon's days (about fourteen Earth days) have a dark sky, it allows for nonstop astronomical observations.[19] Disadvantages include micrometeorite impacts, cosmic and solar radiation, lunar dust, and temperature shifts as large as 350° Celsius.[19] The mission aims to acquire images of galaxies, stars, planets, the Moon and Earth. The project will promote commercial access to the telescope use to schools, scientists and the public at large through the Internet.[2]

Other two unrelated secondary payloads on the lander are a Celestis memorial,[20] and a lunar laser ranging experiment called MoonLIGHT.[21]

See also


  1. ^ a b "ILOA-IM Announce Agreement for 2021 Lunar Landing and Milky Way Galaxy Center Imaging". Parabolic Arc. 12 November 2020. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e ILOA details its ILO-X lunar telescope, wants it on the Moon in 2015. Jon Fingas, Engadget. 28 May 2013.
  3. ^ a b c ILO presentation - 2007.
  4. ^ Accessible Lunar Exploration: Science & Communications from the Moon. Canadyensis Aerospace. 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d Moon Express-built Telescope To Provide Lunar Perspective of Earth. Debra Werner, Space News 3 June 2013.
  6. ^ Lunar Observatories. Robert S. French, Swinburne Astronomy Online.
  7. ^ World's first mission to the Moon's south pole announced. PhysOrg, 19 July 2013.
  8. ^ a b c International Lunar Observatory to be Established at Moon’s South Pole in 2019. Moon Express- Press Release. 21 July 2017.
  9. ^ International Lunar Observatory Association, 4 Mission Update January 2018: ILOA & Galaxy Forum - 10 years on. ILOS, 20 January 2018.
  10. ^ First lunar observatory for Moon's south pole in 2019. Kerry Hebden, The Space Journal. 24 July 2017.
  11. ^ Realizing the International Lunar Observatory. ILO. 2004.
  12. ^ International Lunar Observatory: ILO Mission Update (4th Quarter 2005). ILO Home Site.
  13. ^ Pietrobon, Steven. "New Zealand Launch Record (2009 to present)". Steven Pietrobon's Space Archive. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  14. ^ a b Internatioinal Lunar Observatory to offer a new astrophysical perspective. Spaceflight Insider. Tonasz Nowakowski. 12 August 2017.
  15. ^
    • Moon Express [@MoonEx] (9 February 2020). "There is no upcoming launch with RocketLab. We contracted with RocketLab back in 2015 for a GLXP attempt. We are currently focused on efforts supporting NASA under our Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract" (Tweet). Retrieved 26 February 2020 – via Twitter.
  16. ^ figure 2: Optical Astronomy Payload Configuration. ILO.
  17. ^ Canadensys: An Innovative New Canadian Space Company. The Commercial Space Blog . 5 October 2014.
  18. ^ 'Maunakea World Park' Advanced by Hawaii Mayor Kim at ILOA Galaxy Forum Kona. PR Newswire. 13 April 2017.
  19. ^ a b c ILO — Astrophysics From the Moon's Advantages. Space Age Pub. 2017.
  20. ^ "The Luna 02 Flight". Celestis. 10 October 2017. Archived from the original on 19 March 2018. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  21. ^ UMD, Italy & MoonEx Join to Put New Laser-Reflecting Arrays on Moon. Lee Tune, University of Maryland. 10 June 2015.

External links

  • ILO-1 at Canadyensis Aerospace
  • Photo of the telescope.
  • History of Lunar-Based Astronomy at Space Age Publishing Co.