Lunar Direct Ascent Trajectory
The first IOS Lunar mission is designated LUNAR BULLET. The IOS LUNAR BULLET mission will be similar to the early NASA Ranger missions. The LUNAR BULLET spacecraft will be sent on a Lunar direct ascent trajectory to a predesignated impact site on the Moon. During the last leg of the mission the LUNAR BULLET spacecraft will transmit images back to Earth of the approach to the Moon until impact. In addition, the spacecraft carry a 500-gram air-bag-encapsulated payload that will be jettisoned from the spacecraft for a soft landing on the Lunar surface just before the Lunar Bullet crashes into the Moon. This mission will verify IOS' automated deep-space navigation technology as well as verifying IOS' deep-space communications technology.
Interorbital is working with Ed Belbruno, a world-renowned aerodynamicist and interplanetary trajectory designer, to develop the lunar impact mission guidance parameters. Belbruno, founder and CEO of Innovative Orbital Design, Inc., was recently awarded the prestigious Humboldt Prize honoring his life’s work (to date!) in Mathematics. ‘It’s a brute force mission to just hit the Moon---and that’s never been done by a private company,’ says Belbruno.
IOS NEPTUNE 3 (N3) Moon Rocket
The LUNAR BULLET spacecraft will be launched to the Moon by a modular Interorbital NEPTUNE 3 (N3) launch vehicle. The three-module rocket consists of four stages. Stage 1 is composed of two Common Propulsion Modules. They are attached to the Stage 2 CPM like strap-ons. Stacked on the Stage 2 CPM core in tandem are Stage 3 and the Stage 4 Lunar Bullet spacecraft. The fourth stage LUNAR BULLET spacecraft will provide the final velocity required to reach the Moon as well as have the capability to make a small midcourse correction with its cold-gas steering thrusters.
The LUNAR BULLET spacecraft includes the following hardware: a liquid propulsion system; a cold-gas ACS system that uses residual propulsion system pressurant gas; a guidance system; a stellar gyroscope (similar to a star tracker) for guiding the spacecraft; a transceiver; a set of antennae; a digital still camera; batteries; solar panels; and a power-management system.
The N3 will be launched from the Pacific Ocean. The launch position is approximately 32.3° Latitude and 120° W Longitude. The launch trajectory will be directly south (as in a polar orbit). The probe will be launched into a direct ascent elliptical orbit that will result in the impact of the payload on the northern hemisphere of the Moon. Ideally, the probe will impact between the Lunar latitudes of 30° and 45° North. This simplifies communication during the Lunar approach phase.