The British National Space Centre has announced a call for industry bids for a nine-month phase A study of its proposed 2014 Moon Lightweight Interior and Telecom Experiment (MoonLITE) mission.
The study's budget is on the scale of £1 million ($1.49 million) or more, while the mission would place a telecommunications spacecraft in orbit to relay data back from four penetrators fired into the lunar surface. The penetrators would operate for 12 months, analysing Moonquake strength and frequency.
The mission phase A study will be awarded by the second quarter of 2009 and a separate contract could be placed for the penetrators. The BNSC is still aiming for a total mission cost, including its launch, of £100 million or less.
"We'll argue for the [full mission's] funding at the next spending review [in 2010]," says mission manager David Parker, referring to the triennial spending reviews conducted by the UK government since the Labour party came to power in 1997.
NASA's exploration systems, science and space operations mission directorates will support the mission study. Negotiations about NASA's final involvement will run parallel to phase A.
A BNSC study in 2006 identified MoonLITE as a potential UK mission. NASA and BNSC announced in April this year that MoonLITE could be a UK-led joint mission.