SpaceDev is to develop a conceptual mission and spacecraft design for a moon lander on behalf of Californian company Lunar Enterprise. The small US space company will also analyse launch opportunities, trajectories and potential landing areas, as well as technologies, communications and data handling.

Lunar Enterprise plans a commercial mission to place a small dish antenna near the moon's south pole, where the craft will be in near-constant sunlight for solar power generation and able to perform real-time multi-wavelength astronomy, transmitting data to Earth ground stations.

The US Missile Defense Agency, meanwhile, has awarded SpaceDev an $800,000 contract to explore fast-response launching and commissioning of microsatellites.

The work will also cover small, low-power passive sensors; target acquisition and tracking; formation flying and local area networking within a cluster of microsatellites; and an extension of SpaceDev's use of the internet for on-orbit command, control and data handling.

The US Air Force Research Laboratory recently handed a contract to SpaceDev to develop the low-cost Streaker small launch vehicle (Flight International 29 July- 4 August).

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has awarded a Boeing-led team a contract, with a potential value of $11 million, to study deep space propulsion systems for the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO), to be launched no earlier than 2011. JIMO will be the first science mission in NASA's Project Prometheus, an initiative to develop nuclear electric power and propulsion systems.

Source: Flight International