International Lunar Observatory (ILO)
NamesILO-1 (Flagship Mission to Lunar South Pole, launching 2025-26 TBD) ILO-2 (Backup Mission, TBD)
Mission typeTechnology, Astronomy
OperatorInternational Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA Hawai'i)
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft typeTBD
ManufacturerLander: TBD
Telescope: Canadensys Aerospace
Start of mission
Launch date2025-26 (planned)[1]
Launch siteTBD
Moon lander
Main telescope

The International Lunar Observatory (ILO) is a private scientific and commercial lunar mission by the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA Hawai'i)[2] of Kamuela, Hawaii to place a permanent observatory near the South Pole of the Moon to conduct astrophysical studies using an optical telescope and possibly an antenna dish.[3] The mission 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[4] consisting of two small imagers (totaling less than 0.6 kg), launched on 15 February 2024 aboard the Intuitive Machines IM-1 mission to the Moon south pole region.[1] It is hoped to be a technology precursor to a future observatories on the Moon, and other commercial initiatives.[5][6][7]

The ILO-1 mission is being organized by the International Lunar Observatory Association[8] and the Space Age Publishing Company.[9] It was planned to be launched in 2008 with development by SpaceDev,[10] and was first delayed to 2013.[11] The prime contractors originally were Moon Express, providing the MX-1E lander,[12] and Canadensys Aerospace, providing the optical telescope system.[13][14] The estimated cost in 2004 was of US$50 million.[15]


The ILO-1 mission, 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.[12][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 (March 2024)[19] 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 late 2024 aboard IM-2, or fly with other international or national lunar missions currently under development.[20]

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.[12][6] The original plan for the ILO-1 included an optical portion of the system is a Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope.[21] That optical system uses a 7 cm diameter lens, with an 18 cm focal plane, a 13 cm f/5.6 aperture,[6][22] and 6.4-megapixel resolution.[5] The telescope system would have been "about the size of a shoe-box" with a mass of approximately 2 kg.[5][6] As of 2024, the instruments for ILO-1 and ILO-2 are under consideration which main goals being astronomy from the Moon and imaging the Milky Way Galaxy Center.[23]

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.[24][25]

ILO-X precursor

An ILO-X Precursor instruments were launched on the Intuitive Machines Nova-C IM-1 mission on 15 February 2024.[26] IM-1 landed on the Moon on 22 February, about halfway through the lunar day. Since the lander is unprotected from the cold lunar night, it was only expected to operate until sunset, about seven earth days. ILO-X includes both wide-field and narrow-field imaging systems.[27] The narrow field-of-view imager was named "Ka 'Imi" (To Search) after a student won the Moon Camera Naming Contest held statewide in Hawai'i from March-May 2022.[28] There is an auction to name the wide field-of-view instrument which is open for bidding until 22 March 2024.[29] ILOA released its first images from the ILO-X wide field-of-view imager to the public on 29 February 2024 which included one image taken during Deorbit, Descent and Landing (DDL) on 22 February 2024 about 4.2 minutes prior to touchdown which occurred 23:24 UTC, and another image post-landing taken at about 00:30 UTC on 25 February 2024 which shows portions of the lunar landscape, regolith / dust, the Sun, and the IM-1 Odysseus lunar lander.[30] The company received a total of 9 high-resolution and 105 thumbnail images from the ILO-X imagers,[31] but the mission did not fulfill its main astronomy mission goals to capture images of the Milky Way Galaxy or stars in the celestial sky due to off-nominal pointing of the lander.[32]


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.[33] Also, since the Moon's days (about fourteen Earth days) have a dark sky, it allows for nonstop astronomical observations.[33] Disadvantages include micrometeorite impacts, cosmic and solar radiation, lunar dust, and temperature shifts as large as 350 °C.[33] 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.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b "NASA Redirects Intuitive Machines' First Mission to the Lunar South Pole Region". Intuitive Machines. 6 February 2023. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  2. ^ "International Lunar Observatory Association". Kamuela, Hawaii.
  3. ^ Accessible Lunar Exploration: Science & Communications from the Moon Archived 2018-03-20 at the Wayback Machine. Canadyensis Aerospace. 2018.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ a b c d ILOA details its ILO-X lunar telescope, wants it on the Moon in 2015. Jon Fingas, Engadget. 28 May 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d Moon Express-built Telescope To Provide Lunar Perspective of Earth. Debra Werner, Space News 3 June 2013.
  7. ^ Lunar Observatories Archived 2018-03-20 at the Wayback Machine. Robert S. French, Swinburne Astronomy Online.
  8. ^ "ILOA Hawai'i – To the Galaxy, Moon and Every Place In-Between". Retrieved 2022-04-08.
  9. ^ "Space Age Publishing Company".
  10. ^ International Lunar Observatory: ILO Mission Update (4th Quarter 2005). ILO Home Site.
  11. ^ World's first mission to the Moon's south pole announced. PhysOrg, 19 July 2013.
  12. ^ a b c International Lunar Observatory to be Established at Moon's South Pole in 2019 Archived 2018-03-20 at the Wayback Machine. Moon Express- Press Release. 21 July 2017.
  13. ^ International Lunar Observatory Association, 4 Mission Update January 2018: ILOA & Galaxy Forum - 10 years on Archived 2018-03-20 at the Wayback Machine. ILOS, 20 January 2018.
  14. ^ First lunar observatory for Moon's south pole in 2019. Kerry Hebden, The Space Journal. 24 July 2017.
  15. ^ Realizing the International Lunar Observatory. ILO. 2004.
  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". 2021-04-07. Retrieved 2024-03-04.
  20. ^ "The ILO Mission – ILOA Hawai'i". Retrieved 2022-04-08.
  21. ^ figure 2: Optical Astronomy Payload Configuration. ILO.
  22. ^ Canadensys: An Innovative New Canadian Space Company. The Commercial Space Blog . 5 October 2014.
  23. ^ "The ILO Mission - ILOA Hawai'i". 2021-04-07. Retrieved 2024-03-04.
  24. ^ ILO presentation - 2007.
  25. ^ 'Maunakea World Park' Advanced by Hawaii Mayor Kim at ILOA Galaxy Forum Kona. PR Newswire. 13 April 2017.
  26. ^ "ILO-X Precursor". ILOA.
  27. ^ "News Release". ILOA. 30 January 2024.
  28. ^ "Local Kealakehe Student Wins Hawai'i State-wide ILO-X Moon Camera Naming Contest - ILOA Hawai'i". 2022-11-14. Retrieved 2024-03-04.
  29. ^ "ILO-X Wide Field-of-View Imager | ILO-X Moon Camera Naming Rights | International Lunar Observatory Association". BetterWorld. Retrieved 2024-03-04.
  30. ^ "ILOA Receives First Moon Surface and Lunar Descent Images from ILO-X Aboard Intuitive Machines' IM-1 Nova-C Lander Odysseus - ILOA Hawai'i". 2024-02-29. Retrieved 2024-03-04.
  31. ^ "ILOA Receives First Moon Surface and Lunar Descent Images from ILO-X Aboard Intuitive Machines' IM-1 Nova-C Lander Odysseus - ILOA Hawai'i". 2024-02-29. Retrieved 2024-03-04.
  32. ^ "ILO-X Instruments Are on the Moon Surface, Teams Hope for Milky Way Galaxy and Lunar Images - ILOA Hawai'i". 2024-02-23. Retrieved 2024-03-04.
  33. ^ a b c ILO — Astrophysics From the Moon's Advantages. Space Age Pub. 2017.