4M Moon Orbiter Carrying Ham Radio Payload to Launch on October 23


The Manfred Memorial Moon Mission (4M) lunar flyby experiment, which will carry an Amateur Radio payload, is set to launch from China, attached to the final stage of a Chinese Long March 3C rocket. The launch will take place within a narrow window on October 23, with lunar flyby to occur, nominally, on October 28. Integration of the LX0OHB-4M Amateur Radio payload was completed on October 12. During the lunar flyby, the spacecraft will be about nearly 248,000 miles from Earth and between 7440 and 14,480 miles from the Moon.

The ham radio payload will transmit continuously on 145.990 MHz using JT65B mode, which can be decoded using a version of the free WJST software that Joe Taylor, K1JT, developed especially for this mission. The 14 kg battery-powered payload known as 4M-LXS, was developed at LUXspace in Luxembourg. The orbiter is one of the test models for Beijing’s new lunar probe Chang’e-5, which is designed to land on the moon, collect samples, and return to Earth.

Gislain Ruy, LX2RG, of LUXspace said the 4M mission may be as short as 100 hours — at least ensuring a lunar flyby — but could extend for some weeks, if the attitude is favorable. Contrary to earlier reports, the spacecraft will not re-enter Earth’s atmosphere after the lunar flyby but will go into what Ruy has called “a wonderful orbit.” Ruy said teams are setting up ground stations and are especially looking for stations in the Southern Hemisphere, which are best situated to listen for the spacecraft’s first signals. The onboard transmitter will put 1.5 W into a quarter-wave monopole antenna, offering a signal-to-noise ratio comparable to Amateur Radio moonbounce (EME) signals on Earth's surface.

The launch will take place at approximately 1759 UTC on October 23, and the lunar flyby will take place at 0033 UTC on October 28. 4M is expected to begin transmitting on October 23 between 1917 UTC and 1927 UTC.

The mission honors the late Professor Manfred Fuchs, founder of LUXspace’s parent, the OHB group, who died earlier this year. The 4M-LXS ham radio package will carry up to 2500, 13-character digital messages into space for retransmission. The message collection closed on September 17. The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) is a partner in the experiment.

The 4M mission was detailed during a presentation the EME 2014 conference held recently in France. A paper, “4M Mission: A Lunar Flyby Experiment” also is available. — Thanks to LUXspace, AMSAT-UK, AMSAT News Service