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Space Blog

British MoonLite Mission shoots ahead

The MoonLite development programme, which is part of a proposed UK-led mission to the moon planned for launch as early as 2013, has completed its first three tests at the MoD Pendine test facility managed by Qinetiq with Flying colours. The session comprised the firing of small missile-like probes (named penetrators). Breaking new ground The penetrators travelled at 700mph along 300m of the 1,500m test track before hitting a sand target. The speed of impact and the material used were selected to replicate the surface of the moon and simulate the calculate g-force of 10,000g that the penetrators will be required to withstand whilst protecting their valuable analytical payload. See our earlier Space Blog (Shooting for the Moon) for details on the studies leading to this week’s developments for some background on MoonLite and its complement MoonRaker. More than a missile Equipment on board MoonLite (which stands for Moon Lightweight Interior and Telecoms Experiment) will carry sophisticated analytical instruments that can be used to explore the Moon’s subsurface. These include a seismometer which will measure "Moonquakes".
MoonLite concept
The three penetrators tested at Pendine contained accelerometers, a data acquisition system, a power system and a variety of sensors including a drill mechanism, seismometer and mass spectrometer. The accelerometers recorded data throughout the trial and initial examinations showed that all other sensors survived the impact. During the proposed mission, the penetrators will be deployed at high-speed by an orbiting spacecraft (MoonRaker) and will embed instruments into the lunar surface on impact. Once deployed, the scientific instruments will send measurements back to Earth, revealing the internal structure of the moon. Catch the action A BBC team witnessed the final day of the tests, which included some great video and animated iPlayer footage which can be played online (Missile Practice for Moon mission). For more information on the background behind the MoonLITE mission, why not tune in to Sir Martin Sweeting’s discussion on the BBC or the BNSC.





12 June 20080 Comments1 Comment

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