The European Space Agency (ESA) has provided funding for four new CubeSats mission proposals that will study various activities such as probing lunar radiation and surveying the radio sky over the far side of the Moon.

The ideas will also seek to map minerals and frozen gases within shadowed craters, as well as detect flashes from meteoroids striking the Moon’s surface.

Selected as part of a challenge that asked proposals from European companies, universities and research centres, the proposals will receive the ESA funding until later this year.

The fund is currently being used to further develop the proposals that feature MoonCARE, a trio of six-unit CubeSats that would be designed to measure the radiation environment and its effects on microorganisms.

The idea could help building closed-loop life support systems for future human crews.

“We are now considering their uses further afield as part of future lunar exploration.”

The proposal also includes CubeSat Low-frequency Explorer featuring three 12-unit satellites that would create the first radio telescope over the radio-quiet far side to image the sky below 30MHz, which is not measurable from Earth.

The idea of a 12-unit Volatile and Mineralogy Mapping Orbiter would chart the Moon’s surface minerals and frozen gases such as water ice to 10m resolution using a ‘laser radar’ to peer into shadowed regions at the poles.

In addition, the proposals include the Lunar Meteoroid Impacts Observer, a single 12-unit CubeSat carrying a sophisticated camera to capture the flashes of meteoroids impacting the far side to complement existing near-side monitoring and build a complete picture of the hazards facing future moonwalkers.

ESA’s technology CubeSat managerRoger Walker said: “Built around standard 10cm units, CubeSats are already proving their worth near to Earth.

“We are now considering their uses further afield as part of future lunar exploration.”

The four teams will compete for the final prize at a workshop to be held in December.

Image: Concepts of CubeSat orbiting earth. Photo: courtesy of ESA.