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caption: This lander concept image is cropped from an ESA artist’s impression of a Moonbase
credit: ESA

I obtained more detail about the proposed European Space Agency robotic lunar lander for cargo delivery in a 2020-2025 or 2025-2030 timeframe during my 21 April phone interview with ESA’s human spaceflight directorate’s head of strategy and architecture office, Bernhard HufenbachFrom an international collaboration and independent exploration point-of-view, Hufenbach described the lander “as very attractive”

He said that ESA can do more science, provide logistics and pre-deposit science instruments using its own lander that he says would deliver up to two metric tonnes, or 2,000kg (4,400lb)

He described the lander’s launcher as an evolution of the EADS Astrium Ariane 5

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caption: This is the first EADS Astrium Ariane 5 Evolution Storable variant that launched the first of ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicles
credit: ESA

ESA’s current “mid-life evolution” programme could deliver the enhancements needed for them in the timeframe envisaged

However Hufenbach did not expect an expansion of the booster’s ability to 12,000kg to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), although the current Ariane 5 ECA variant can put 9,600kg into GTO

The concept of operations would see an Ariane 5 launch a cargo lander directly into a lunar injection orbit

The Ariane 5’s upper stage would act as the Earth departure stage and the lander would only have a “simple” descent stage; bywhich I guess he means storable propellant

As the lander will be part of the agency’s proposals to its member states’ ministerial meeting in November I hope to have further details later this year