Russia's satellite and planetary probe specialist, the Lavochkin Association, has begun phase B design work as prime contractor for the country's Luna-Glob 1 orbiter mission that will take place in 2012.
Luna-Glob 1, to be launched by a Samara Space Center Soyuz 2 rocket, is to be a 120kg (264lb) orbiter that will study the Moon's internal structure and look for mineral resources. It is the first of four missions planned before the creation of a fully robotic lunar base scheduled after 2015.
A Luna-Glob 2 mission, which could also take place in 2012, will have a rover whose lander may become part of the International Lunar Network. The 58kg rover will go to the south pole, examine a crater and operate for up to one year.
The next two missions, to be called Luna-Grount, will feature in 2014 an orbiter that arrives with a lander that carries a large rover capable of in-situ soil analysis and in 2015 a second lander with an ascent stage that returns samples.
"Luna-Glob could have penetrators. It will image the south pole," says Lavochkin's planet exploration centre deputy director Olga Zaytseva.
The robotic lunar base that follows Glob and Grount would consist of a solar power station, lander stations for telecommunications and science experiments, a long-range research rover, a landing and launch area and an orbiting satellite.
Russia sent orbiters, rovers and a sample return mission to the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s. Its first few Luna probes reached the Moon in 1959 with the first soft landing being achieved in February 1966 by Luna 9. Russia's first lunar sample return mission, Luna 20, was in 1972. Zaytseva expects landing technology developed in the 1970s to be used for the new missions.