International Lunar Observatory (ILO)
NamesILO-1 (Flagship Mission to Lunar South Pole, launching late 2022-23 TBD) ILO-2 (Backup Mission, TBD)
Mission typeTechnology, Astronomy
OperatorInternational Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA Hawai'i)
COSPAR ID Edit this at Wikidata
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft typeTBD
ManufacturerLander: TBD
Telescope: Canadensys Aerospace
Payload massTelescope: ≈2 kg
Start of mission
Launch date2022–23 (planned)[1]
Launch siteTBD
Moon lander
TypeSchmidt–Cassegrain telescope
Diameter7 cm
Focal length18 cm
Wavelengthsvisible spectrum
Resolution6.4-megapixel [2]
Capacity115,000 bps[3]
TWTA power5 W [3]

The International Lunar Observatory (ILO) is a private scientific and commercial lunar mission by International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) of Kamuela, Hawaii to place a small observatory near the South Pole of the Moon to conduct astrophysical studies using an optical telescope.[4] The mission, planned for launch in 2022 or 2023, aims to prove a conceptual design for a lunar observatory that would be reliable, low cost, and fast to implement. A precursor mission, ILO-X[5] consisting of two small imagers (totaling less than 0.6 kg), is set to launch in 2022[6] aboard the Intuitive Machines IM-1 mission to Vallis Schröteri on the Moon's near side.[1] It is hoped to be a technology precursor to a future observatories on the Moon, and other commercial initiatives.[2][7][8]

The ILO-1 mission, announced in July 2017,[9] is being organized by the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA)[10] and the Space Age Publishing Company. The prime contractors originally were Moon Express, providing the MX-1E lander,[11] and Canadensys Aerospace, providing the optical telescope system.[12][13] The estimated cost in 2004 was of US$50 million.[14]


The ILO-1 mission, first planned to be launched in 2008,[15] was later scheduled to be launched in July 2020 with an Electron rocket from New Zealand.[16] The mission was called Moon Express Lunar Scout, and it would have used the MX-1E lander to deliver the observatory on top of the Malapert Mountain, a 5 km tall peak in the Aitken Basin region that has an uninterrupted direct line of sight to Earth, which facilitates communications any time.[11][17] The original launch of the MX-1E lander with an Electron rocket was cancelled sometime before February 2020; no launch date or launch rocket for the MX-1E has been since announced, leaving the status of it unknown.[18] The ILO-1 flagship payload, and its back up ILO-2, is still being advanced through work by Canadensys Aerospace Corporation (April 2022) while ILOA seeks a different landing provider and partner to land on Malapert Mountain. ILO-1 or ILO-2 may fly with Intuitive Machines to the Moon South Pole region in December 2022 / 2023 aboard IM-2, or fly with other international or national lunar missions currently under development.[19]

The small robotic ILO-1 observatory is designed to withstand the long lunar nights so it is expected to operate for a few years.[17] Moon Express would have also utilized the mission to explore the Moon's South Pole for mineral resources including water ice.[11][7] The original plan for the ILO-1 included an optical portion of the system is a Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope.[20] The optical system uses a 7 cm diameter lens, with an 18 cm focal plane, a 13 cm f/5.6 aperture,[7][21] and 6.4-megapixel resolution.[2] The telescope system would have been "about the size of a shoe-box" with a mass of approximately 2 kg.[2][7]

Some collaborators include the National Astronomical Observatory of China (NAOC), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the newly formed Southeast Asia Principal Operating Partnership, and others.[3][22]


The mission's objective is to conduct astrophysical observations from the surface of the Moon, whose lack of atmosphere eliminates much of the need for costly adaptive optics technology.[23] Also, since the Moon's days (about fourteen Earth days) have a dark sky, it allows for nonstop astronomical observations.[23] Disadvantages include micrometeorite impacts, cosmic and solar radiation, lunar dust, and temperature shifts as large as 350° Celsius.[23] The mission aims to acquire images of galaxies, stars, planets, the Moon and Earth. The project will promote commercial access to the telescope use to schools, scientists and the public at large through the Internet.[2]

See also


  1. ^ a b "ILOA-IM Announce Agreement for 2021 Lunar Landing and Milky Way Galaxy Center Imaging". Parabolic Arc. 12 November 2020. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e ILOA details its ILO-X lunar telescope, wants it on the Moon in 2015. Jon Fingas, Engadget. 28 May 2013.
  3. ^ a b c ILO presentation - 2007.
  4. ^ Accessible Lunar Exploration: Science & Communications from the Moon. Canadyensis Aerospace. 2018.
  5. ^ Machines, Intuitive (2020-11-12). "ILOA-IM Announce Agreement for 2021 Lunar Landing and Milky Way Galaxy Center Imaging". Intuitive Machines. Retrieved 2022-04-08.
  6. ^ "Intuitive Machines-1 Orbital Debris Assessment Report (ODAR) Revision 1.1" (PDF). Intuitive Machines. FCC. 22 April 2021. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d Moon Express-built Telescope To Provide Lunar Perspective of Earth. Debra Werner, Space News 3 June 2013.
  8. ^ Lunar Observatories. Robert S. French, Swinburne Astronomy Online.
  9. ^ World's first mission to the Moon's south pole announced. PhysOrg, 19 July 2013.
  10. ^ "ILOA Hawai'i – To the Galaxy, Moon and Every Place In-Between". Retrieved 2022-04-08.
  11. ^ a b c International Lunar Observatory to be Established at Moon’s South Pole in 2019. Moon Express- Press Release. 21 July 2017.
  12. ^ International Lunar Observatory Association, 4 Mission Update January 2018: ILOA & Galaxy Forum - 10 years on. ILOS, 20 January 2018.
  13. ^ First lunar observatory for Moon's south pole in 2019. Kerry Hebden, The Space Journal. 24 July 2017.
  14. ^ Realizing the International Lunar Observatory. ILO. 2004.
  15. ^ International Lunar Observatory: ILO Mission Update (4th Quarter 2005). ILO Home Site.
  16. ^ Pietrobon, Steven. "New Zealand Launch Record (2009 to present)". Steven Pietrobon's Space Archive. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  17. ^ a b Internatioinal Lunar Observatory to offer a new astrophysical perspective. Spaceflight Insider. Tonasz Nowakowski. 12 August 2017.
  18. ^
  19. ^ "The ILO Mission – ILOA Hawai'i". Retrieved 2022-04-08.
  20. ^ figure 2: Optical Astronomy Payload Configuration. ILO.
  21. ^ Canadensys: An Innovative New Canadian Space Company. The Commercial Space Blog . 5 October 2014.
  22. ^ 'Maunakea World Park' Advanced by Hawaii Mayor Kim at ILOA Galaxy Forum Kona. PR Newswire. 13 April 2017.
  23. ^ a b c ILO — Astrophysics From the Moon's Advantages. Space Age Pub. 2017.