Joint US-UK report supports MoonLITE mission in which QinetiQ is set to play key role
QinetiQ today welcomed a joint report on lunar exploration by NASA and the British National Space Centre (BNSC) that outlines next steps in possible US-UK co-operation on space exploration. The report identifies the MoonLITE mission, in which QinetiQ is set to play a key role, as "the primary mission for potential cooperation."
MoonLITE, which stands for Moon Lightweight Interior and Telecoms Experiment, is a UK-led robotic mission that could pave the way for future human activities on the Moon. The mission would involve sending an orbiter to deploy small missile-like probes called penetrators that would impact the lunar surface at high speed and embed instruments into the ground.
As part of a consortium led by the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at University College London, QinetiQ would be responsible for supplying the impact resistant penetrator bodies for the mission. Once deployed the scientific instruments within the penetrators would send measurements back to the Earth, revealing the internal structure of the Moon.
QinetiQ's expertise in penetrators was developed under programmes for the UK Ministry of Defence. Paul Smith, Chief Operating Officer for QinetiQ's UK space business commented: "The penetrator engineering concepts come from long-standing research programmes on projectiles. Through the MoonLITE mission we could soon see this technology used in space."
The joint US-UK report describes MoonLITE as a "trailblazing programme," with NASA regarding the mission as a cost-effective milestone beyond Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter (LRO) which is scheduled for launch in October 2008. The penetrators will allow measurements to be taken from the far side of the moon for the first time, making "major contributions to lunar science" and "the planning of future human missions." The report also describes penetrators as having "wide applications for the exploration of other airless bodies throughout the solar system."
If the report's conclusions are implemented, the next steps would include setting up a joint NASA and BNSC project team and a nine month study to deliver a definitive cost estimate for the mission. If things go to plan the mission could be launched as early as 2012.