Lunar Microsatellite Project: Questions and Answers

    On October 1, 2015, a fundraising campaign was launched on the Boomstarter crowdfunding platform to develop a spacecraft project to launch into a lunar orbit and to survey Apollo and Lunokhod landing sites. The project was started by enthusiasts, so it caused a number of questions, and I will try to answer some of them.

    Who are you anyway?

    Details about the team that started work on the project are written on the description page . Part of the team consists of specialists from the Russian private space company Dauria Aerospace, part - engineers who were not previously involved in space projects, but decided to start doing it. Now many specialists from various fields, including space, are writing to us, offering their participation and assistance in the project, so the number of developers will grow. Now the interest has already been expressed by the staff of the Institute of Applied Mathematics named after MV Keldysh, NGO named after S.A. Lavochkin, Moscow State University, SSAU, private companies Sputniks and OKB of the Fifth Generation, students of MSTU named after M.E. Bauman, MAI.

    On November 4, 2015, we held an open meeting in the conference hall of the Moscow Museum of Cosmonautics, where everyone could communicate with the project participants and personally ask questions. We will try to repeat such meetings approximately every two to three months.

    Where is the guarantee that the money allocated by the sponsors will go to the stated goals?

    I am the author and initiator of the project - Vitaly Egorov , who writes on blogs under the nickname Zelenyikot . I write about space and during my promotional activities I was able to become familiar to many people who are interested in this topic. During my activity, I managed to gather large communities of cosmonautics enthusiasts on the Vkontakte social network ( Curiosity Mars rover , Deep space , Sputnik Electro-L ), organize searches for Mars-3 ; organize a public campaign with a request to the leadership of Roscosmos to changeElectron-L satellite operating mode for capturing an interesting astronomical phenomenon and making satellite data more open ; create a blog and website that have become worthy of the Belyaev Prize for the popularization of astronautics. Now I periodically give lectures on space research, including at the Moscow Planetarium and the Moscow Museum of Cosmonautics.

    Opening the project of the lunar microsatellite, I practically vouch for everything that was created and achieved by me and my like-minded people in the matter of popularizing space exploration. So far, only my honor and authority can serve as a guarantee of the fulfillment of promises. Of course, they do not matter to everyone, but that’s all I have, and they mean a lot to me.

    Do you yourself believe that Americans landed on the moon?

    Personally, I'm sure they were there. I believe the Soviet experts in the space industry, who do not doubt the reliability of the landing. I believe the Soviet and Russian scientists who studied and compared the lunar soil delivered by various missions. I believe in my experience in space archeology and the analysis of satellite imagery and surface imagery. Everything speaks in favor of the fact that they were there and there is not a single convincing argument against it.

    Other members of our team are not so categorical in their judgments. But everyone agrees that the flight of our satellite, and a successful survey will provide convincing and reliable facts that will remove all doubts.

    If representatives of the Russian space industry do not doubt the authenticity of NASA flights, do you question their credibility with your project?

    The goals of the project are much wider than just finding out whether they flew or not, so those industry representatives who understand our idea do not feel encroachment on their authority. On the other hand, not all industry representatives are 100% sure of the reliability of the Americans landing. I personally heard public statements about the falsification of lunar soil from the mouth of an employee of RSC Energia. Other representatives of the Russian cosmonautics are not so categorical in their statements, but admit that there are doubts and independent observations would not be out of place.

    Do you understand that you still cannot convince the most categorical “non-flyers”?

    We understand. Our project is designed primarily for those who are interested in space, and the goals are chosen that will allow you to obtain objective and independent data on the surface of the moon, and will be the final answer for those who do not know which of the contending parties to join.

    But the goals of the entire mission are much greater. Here is the popularization of astronautics, and the inspiration of the young generation by an interesting and ambitious program, and the creation of a microsatellite platform, on the basis of which, in the future, it will be possible to carry out other studies in interplanetary space ... The

    American satellite LRO has already taken off the landing sites, what will be new from your survey?

    We set the task of shooting the surface of the moon at a resolution of about two times higher than shooting LRO. Even if you can’t shoot better, shooting similar to LRO frames will still be a success of the project, and will give an independent look at the lunar surface.


    In addition, Russia does not have its own satellite images of the moon. There are only those that have been inherited from the Soviet Union and the Luna and Probe programs. If our project is successful, then it will provide additional material about the moon for our scientists.

    Europeans, Japanese, Indians and Chinese also filmed the Apollo, what is the difference between your idea?

    Satellites of other space agencies did not survey the Apollo, but only the Apollo landing sites. The resolution of the satellites, except for the LRO, did not allow us to consider the descent stages of the spacecraft themselves. The Indian satellite Chandrayaan-1 was able to see only the “halo” - a spot of dust, which was dispersed by rocket engines of the descent vehicle. Japanese Kaguya was able to get a picture that shows the halo , and vaguely you can see the Apollo-15 descent stage in the form of a light point, and its shadow in the form of a dark point. The Europeans set the goal of shooting the landing sites of manned ships, but the resolution of their cameras did not allow to obtain the required image quality.

    What will be done on the collected 1.5 million rubles?

    Speaking in the terminology adopted in the Russian space industry, we are collecting money for an advance project . But we tried to avoid the use of this term so as not to be limited to the requirements that are imposed at this stage of development. In simple terms: we are creating a technical description of the spacecraft and its flight program, which will show the actual feasibility of such a mission. Those. we must work out such a spacecraft that can fulfill the goals that we set.

    In addition to the immediate goals of shooting the moon in high resolution, our satellite must still weigh little and cost little, which imposes serious restrictions on the entire structure.

    How much will the entire flight program cost?

    A more accurate cost of the entire program will be known when we prepare the project itself. We hope that we will be able to stay within $ 10 million, but this is more of a hope than an objective assessment of the mission.

    Where do you get the rest?

    The implementation of the entire program involves several stages, so immediately a suitcase of money is not needed. After the completion of the first stage of work, we will search for sponsors and investors. To do this, we will work out not only the technical elements, but also evaluate the commercial attractiveness of the project. There are many examples in the history of Russian cosmonautics when satellites designed as interplanetary probes performed practical work in near-Earth orbit. We will try to repeat this experience. In addition, individual components of the spacecraft, for example, an on-board computer, telescope, laser communication system, etc., can also be of commercial interest. To develop these elements, you can also raise funds through crowdfunding or seek support from private or public investors, foundations and development institutions.

    We hope that it will be possible to connect Russian universities to the development of the spacecraft, so students and graduate students will gain valuable experience, and we will be able to implement their development in an interesting interplanetary program.

    Now we are discussing the possibility of implementing parts of the project through Open source - this will reduce the cost of development, and will enable many enthusiasts from the IT industry to participate in the creation of the spacecraft.

    What is the use of your theoretical project if you do not find the money to build a satellite and launch?

    If for some reason we cannot continue to work on the project after the completion of the first stage, then we will publish all the materials. Any other team that can find technical and financial opportunities will be able to take advantage of our results.

    The development of space technology requires a license for space activities, do you have one?

    We do not, but we hope to cooperate with Russian universities and private space companies that have such a license. Although a lot depends on how our project will develop. If everything goes well, then in time before launch we will have time to get our license.

    Where do you get a rocket to fly to the moon?

    The spacecraft is calculated based on the capabilities of the associated launch. Now we are considering three main options:
    1) along the way to the geostationary orbit - from a distance of 36 thousand km,
    2) along the way to the lunar transition orbit - delivery almost to the moon, but you must independently control the flight path, quench speed and go into orbit,
    3) along with the lunar satellite - the most coveted, but the most unlikely option.

    Each of the options imposes special requirements on the entire spacecraft according to the type of propulsion system, fuel supply, and, as a result, weight and dimensions. The main option is the second, but we will work through all three possibilities.

    Is it possible to launch into interplanetary orbits along the way, because at launch every gram of mass is considered?

    Can. It all depends on the mass of the main load and the capabilities of the booster block, which is used to launch onto the take-off trajectory. And from how far in advance we will apply for a ride. Often there is the opportunity to increase the capabilities of the upper stage by filling in an additional supply of fuel.

    Actually, our project was born when, in June 2015, a representativeThe Glavkosmos at the Startup Village forum in Skolkovo said that the possibility of placing a passing load in the form of satellites of the American company Planet Labs at the Russian automatic interplanetary station Luna-25 was being discussed. I thought that since the Americans have the opportunity to fly, it would be better to take their place and implement their flight program.

    In modern astronautics, almost every launch into near-Earth orbit displays not only the main cargo, but also the associated one. They fly to interplanetary orbits less often, but there are also opportunities here. Roskosmos has a not-so-successful example, when the Chinese satellite Inho-1 was supposed to fly along with the Phobos-Grunt station . NASA plans to launch two micro-satellites MarCOalong with the InSight Martian mission in 2016, and more than a dozen microsatellites should fly to the Moon in 2018 during a test launch of the SLS superheavy rocket and Orion spacecraft. In 2014, the Japanese automatic station Hayabusa-2 went to the asteroid 1999 JU3, from which three hitchhikers flew , including 32 kilogram ArtSat-2 - a sculpture printed on a 3D printer.

    We hope for a flight along with the Roscosmos apparatus, but not as it was on Phobos-Grunt, but separately - with integration on the upper stage and access to the lunar transition orbit. If, for some reason, the launch by Russian missiles is impossible, we will try to work out the issue of launching with a Chinese or Indian mission. China also has an example when a foreign device flew to the moon with their rocket: the Luxembourg 4M instrument (Manfred Memorial Moon Mission) was installed on the body of the Chinese upper stage and went into interplanetary space.

    Will the propulsion systems be placed on the device?

    Yes, rocket engines on the lunar apparatus are necessary - this is what distinguishes it from near-earth satellites, where you can do without them. Depending on the type of launch, we will need different types of propulsion systems. If you fly from a geostationary orbit, you need a plasma engine, this very seriously complicates the project and makes it almost an order of magnitude more expensive. Therefore, we are looking for alternative opportunities, and so far in theory, they are. If you fly from a lunar transition orbit, you will need a powerful marching propulsion system, which should extinguish approximately 800 m / s speed in a short period of time. If you fly along the way to the very lunar orbit, then you can limit yourself to orbital and orientation correction engines.

    At first, when we proceeded from a mass of the apparatus of 50 kg, the search for suitable rocket engines was a serious problem. Now engines for such microsatellites are only being developed. This is partly why we had to put up with an increase in the mass and dimensions of the satellite over 100 kg. This leads to the fact that it can no longer be considered a microsatellite, but at that size you can take serial engines from Russian manufacturers.

    Shooting with the stated resolution (10-20 cm) requires a very low orbit, and the declared active life (0.5 years) at this height will require a large supply of working fluid to maintain the orbit (comparable to the stated mass of the device), how to explain this contradiction?

    High resolution is an ideal. It’s enough for us to have 2-3 frames in that quality, if they set the goals set. Shooting in this quality is available from an altitude of 10-20 km, and at such altitudes satellites in orbit of the moon exist for a few days or hours. Therefore, the flight program of our device will include access to a high orbit and a gradual decrease, with the development of the functions of receiving and transmitting data. An alternative is to enter an elliptical orbit, where the lower point will be at an altitude of 20 km, and the upper one will be several hundred or thousand km. That's it, from the moment of separation from the booster block, until the collision with the surface and stands out for six months.

    How is it supposed to transfer data from the lunar orbit?

    Data transfer is another difficult task that we need to solve. Already in the preliminary discussion, we realized that the options for transmitting large amounts of data in the amateur radio range are an unsuccessful idea. Therefore, we are now preparing to develop a radio complex with transmission in the X-band of both target information and telemetry. We will also try to provide broadcasting in the amateur radio range - we will transmit telemetry and preview images, but only at times when the power system will allow it.

    In parallel, we are working on a laser transmission option. This is a new thing, although both Europeans and Americans have already conducted experiments in this direction. Therefore, laser communication will also be with us as an experiment, partly as a backup transmission line, partly as a reserve for the future.

    How will trajectory measurements and satellite control be implemented?

    Here we can hardly do without the Russian systems of long-distance space communications. At the same time, we are considering the possibility of seeking help from the European Space Agency and raising commercial funds. Until we proceed with the implementation of the next stages of the project, this issue will remain at the stage of theoretical study.

    What is your attitude to your project in Roskosmos?

    We don’t know the official position on our project (and it’s unlikely to have been formed), however, we know that many of the decision-makers from the management of ORKK and Roscosmos know our idea and, at least, have no objections from them. They understand that our activity is also the popularization of Russian cosmonautics, and is carried out in their interests, among other things.

    Has anyone from America or NASA specifically contacted you?

    Some NASA representatives are aware of our project thanks to a number of publications in the English-language press, but we did not receive proposals to start a dialogue. Our project interested in the United States several representatives of the “other side” - those who hope to prove the lunar conspiracy and “expose the American government.”

    Who transferred the largest part of the amount to the project of 0.5 million rubles?

    Petersburg businessman Vladimir Klyaznik . He motivated his support with the words: “quite a serious enthusiasm for aerospace topics (both from a theoretical and practical point of view), plus a desire to support a private initiative in this area of ​​activity in our country.”

    If you still have questions, you can ask in the comments.

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