Leonardo announced the signing of a €31.5 million contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) to build PROSPECT, the onboard drill and miniature lab for the Luna 27 lunar lander, a mission by ESA and Roscosmos, with support from the Italian and UK Space Agencies.
Following the 2016 contract for the initial development model, Leonardo has now been awarded the task to work on the detailed design and manufacturing of PROSPECT’s flight model. More than 50 years after the first man landed on the Moon in 1969, Leonardo starts 2020 with an exciting challenge for its space robotic business.
Leonardo’s PROSPECT (Package for Resource Observation, in-Situ analysis and Prospecting for Exploration Commercial exploitation and Transportation) will be looking for water ice, volatiles and other chemicals under the surface, on the South polar regions of the Moon, where extreme cold temperatures – up to -150 °C – can increase chances to find icy volatiles resources.
“There are vast regions of the Moon that are unexplored, the PROSPECT drill will allow scientists to better understand the terrain and prepare missions where lunar soil can be used to create oxygen or fuel for example” said ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration David Parker, “the drill is one component of many exciting missions ESA is working on with international partners to go forward to the Moon.”
“The contract for the development and production of PROSPECT is further evidence of Leonardo’s engineering and design capabilities of complex space systems which build on the experience and know-how of the drilling systems developed for the Rosetta and ExoMars missions,” said Marco De Fazio, Deputy managing director Electronics division, Electronics Italy business unit in Leonardo, adding: “Leonardo’s leadership in mission critical key payload and equipment spans different productions, many of which come from the Nerviano plant, such as atomic clocks, robotic systems and photovoltaic panels for space exploration, observation and navigation missions.”
PROSPECT is composed of two elements: a robotic drill (ProSEED) and a miniature laboratory with a suite of scientific instruments (ProSPA). This complex system will drill into the Moon’s soil to depths of up to one meter taking material samples to distribute to scientific instruments aboard for analysis. PROSPECT includes collaboration with the UK’s Open University which leads the consortium responsible of the ProSPA scientific laboratory.
The new scientific results, which will be obtained also thanks to Leonardo’s PROSPECT, will provide valuable resources to pave the way for future lunar exploration missions.