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Exclusive: Israeli nanosatellite to the moon

The satellite offers a much more accurate method of measuring the moon's gravity, based on measuring the distance using a laser between two satellites - the LUNGRA and the satellite carrying it to the moon 

A group of students from the Technion's Asher Space Research Institute, under the direction of Dr. David Mishna and Dr. Fred Ortenberg, presented at the forty-fifth annual Israeli Aeronautics and Space Conference a special high school project they carried out - a tiny satellite for studying the moon's gravitational field, known as LUNAR (LUNar GRAvity). The system consists of a combination of two satellites - when the students made a detailed design of the tiny satellite, and its partner could be any satellite launched to the moon.

What is special about this project is the method of measuring the strength of gravity around the moon: while other research satellites such as "Clementine" and the American "LUNAR PROSPECTOR" used a laser system to measure the height of the satellite above the surface of the moon (and by measuring the small changes you can learn about the strength of the moon's gravitational field) The LUNGRA project offers a much more accurate measurement method, based on measuring the distance using a laser between two satellites - the LUNGRA and the satellite carrying it to the moon.

It should be noted that, in terms of the weight and size of the satellite, the students' plan is suitable for the opportunity offered to the international space community by the Indian Space Agency, for a 10 kg payload that will be attached to the Indian moon Chandrayaan spacecraft, which is scheduled to launch in 2008. The high school project was based on the Indian satellite as well For reasons of convenience, and also foresight - the possibility of offering the Proke to the Indian Space Agency. (In a conversation I had with Professor Rodam Narishima, a senior member of the Indian space program, I was told that the decision on the manned mission to fly to the moon aboard the Chandrayain spacecraft is expected to be made soon. When I asked how he was impressed by the students' proposal, he replied that he listened with great interest to the presentation they gave at the conference, and that the idea presented by them as well as the quality of the work are very interesting).

The students' proposal talks about maintaining a distance of 50 km between the tiny satellite and its mother spacecraft, and measuring tiny changes in the distance between the two will indicate very small changes in the lunar gravity field - changes that should indicate underground geological structures and formations on the moon.

The tiny satellite known as LENS (Lunar Experimental Nano Satellite) weighs only 10 kg, and its small dimensions (30 x 25 x 20 cm) enable a relatively small power consumption - only about 6 watts.

Objectives of the operation:

1. Main goal - mapping the lunar gravity field using a laser system fired from a tiny satellite to the mother spacecraft;
2. Secondary purpose - photographing and examining the mother spacecraft by cameras installed in the tiny satellite;
3. Full compatibility with the Indian lunar probe Chandrayaan. At the same time, the project could be adapted to any research spacecraft that will fly to the moon.

The team of students and scientists of the Asher Space Research Institute at the Technion presented a coherent and interesting project, offering an important and interesting scientific experiment, which is within the range of the economic possibilities of the State of Israel. The investment required to build the system and carry out the necessary tests is not large in terms of space projects, and it is an extraordinary opportunity to integrate Israeli research into a prestigious research project - the number of countries that have launched research spacecraft to the moon is tiny - the USSR, the USA, Jaffa and the European Space Agency. It is to be hoped that the selection committee of the Indian Space Agency will find interest in the research proposal from Israel, and that the resources will be found - if the project goes to practical stages - to build the tiny satellite.
Unfortunately, we can only update that this offer was not chosen by the Indians.

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