The European Space Agency (ESA) is preparing a possible lunar mission campaign envisaging robotic access to the Moon during the 2020's to prepare for future human missions. The implementation of this campaign - within the framework of the European Space Exploration Envelope Programme (E3P) - is subject to decisions at the ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial level planned for December 2019.
Campaign missions may be categorised as:
- Missions of Opportunity, where European payloads respond to flight opportunities made available by the private sector or international partners.
- Directed missions, where European payloads are contributed to missions which are defined and driven by ESA, alone or with international partners, to achieve a predefined set of objectives.
Missions of Opportunity
Missions of Opportunity are those where an international or commercial partner has presented an opportunity to:
- Deliver and operate a payload at the Moon,
- Preferentially access scientific data or returned samples or to participate in scientific planning and operations.
Examples of missions of opportunity could include:
- An opportunity to provide a complete payload of up to 10kg on a private lunar lander mission to a near side lunar location and to operate that payload for a given period of time, with a given allocation of power and data resources.
- An opportunity to contribute European elements to a payload which is led by an international partner and flown on that partner’s mission to a lunar polar landing site. At the surface the payload is operated in line with the international partner’s science operations plan. The contribution to the payload enables involvement in the science planning and operations and preferential access to data for exploitation.
- An opportunity to access and perform research on a sample returned by an international partner’s mission, which is enabled through an agreement between ESA and the international partner.
- An opportunity to have a cubesat, which performs stand-alone scientific operations, delivered into lunar orbit by a commercial supplier, who also provides a communications and operations support service.
Missions of opportunity will usually be realised through cooperative agreements between ESA and a partner but may also result from commercial procurement of flight opportunities from commercial suppliers.
Missions of opportunity are likely to be characterised by:
- Rapid development and delivery requirements
- Severe resource limitations for power, data, mass and operations
- High risk, resulting from reduced levels of technical oversight and quality assurance of the mission platforms compared with ESA driven mission procurements
- Lower cost to ESA than for Directed missions
- High scientific quality but limited scientific return per mission
Directed Missions are missions where ESA defines a set of mission objectives and derives from these a set of mission and scientific requirements. There are then the basis for the procurement of a mission or flight opportunity which addresses those requirements. Directed Missions may be undertaken independently by ESA or be defined and procured in cooperation with international partners.
Examples of a directed mission could include:
- A mission to demonstrate and mature technology for later human lunar surface missions, perform preparatory mission operations, perform scientific investigations at the lunar surface and return lunar samples. In such a mission ESA may contribute system elements to an overall international architecture and payloads to a payload suite with international contributions. The approach to sample receiving, curation and distribution would be agreed and coordinated by the partner agencies in the mission. The mission’s science planning and operations are managed cooperatively by the agencies involved and European scientists are assured access to both data and samples.
- A mission in which ESA procures access to the lunar surface from a commercial mission supplier with the express purpose of deploying and operating a specific scientific payload at the lunar surface. The European science community are engaged on the definition of the mission and science requirements, support science planning and operations and access the data from the payload.
Directed missions are likely to be characterised by:
- Technology and science driven mission definition, design and operations
- Increased ESA oversight of mission development and procurements and thus reduced risk
- Increased cost to ESA compared with missions of opportunity
- High scientific quality and high scientific return per mission
- International partnerships and coordination