The UK may announce a national technology programme worth up to £25 million ($52 million) this December that would help develop a UK robotic lunar spacecraft as part of the country's new space strategy.
By 6 December preparation for the new space strategy for 2007-10 is expected to be completed. On the same day the UK minister responsible for civil space activities, Ian Pearson, will speak at the 3rd Appleton Space Conference at the Oxfordshire, UK-based Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.
The UK government's civil space co-ordinator the British National Space Centre (BNSC) could not confirm that the strategy would be published on 6 December. The BNSC has said the new strategy would be published by the end of the year and that its budget may fund the technology programme up to £25 million - although it could be as low as £4 million.
The robotic lunar spacecraft could be for either of the UK's Science and Technology Facilities Council research body's proposed missions, the MoonRaker lander or MoonLite, an orbiter that would fire penetrators into the Moon's surface.
MoonLite is being considered by the 14-person BNSC, NASA Joint Study Group technical team that will publish its final report this month, about potential UK-US lunar exploration co-operation.
BNSC director-general, David Williams says: "I haven't seen the [BNSC, NASA Joint Study Group technical team] report. It is linked to where we are in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR). The CSR [for space] looks very good at the moment. The technology programme budget will be between £4 million and £25 million."
He added that the BNSC had been talking to NASA in parallel to its joint technical team talks about how the private sector can support lunar exploration with existing technologies that can provide a commercial service.
Japan and China already have their own government funded lunar orbiters, Kaguya and Chang'e-1, respectively, surveilling the Moon.