Spaceflight Insider

New Russian lunar orbiter contracted to be built

Luna-26 lunar orbiter

A model of the Luna-Glob orbiter (Luna-Resurs Orbiter / Luna 26). Photo Credit: Wikipedia-CC

The Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) is proceeding with a new project to build a lunar orbiter which will be the first of numerous new lunar missions the agency is planning.

Based on information TASS obtained from the official government procurement website, the new Luna-Resurs Orbiter will be contracted out to several different companies with a total price tag not to exceed 2 billion rubles (a little over $33,500,000 at the current exchange rate).

The primary contractor of the new spacecraft will be the NPO Lavochkin aerospace company. They will receive about 80 percent of the contract’s value in an advance payment.

Luna-Glob orbiter and lander

Luna-Glob Orbiter and Lander. (Click to enlarge) Image Credit: NPO Lavochkin / IKI

The procurement contract stated that the new orbiter will be completed by February 29, 2020.

Russia has a great deal of experience sending unmanned spacecraft to the Moon, though none recently. In the 1960s and 1970s, the then Soviet Union sent multiple missions to our natural satellite, including the first probe to successfully soft land on the surface (Luna 9) and the first spacecraft to orbit the Moon (Luna 10).

Although the Soviet Union had suffered many failures with their unmanned lunar spacecraft, they also enjoyed many successes including three successful sample return missions: Luna 16, Luna 20, and Luna 24 – their last mission to the Moon.

At present, the new orbiter appears to be the Luna-Resurs Orbiter (Luna-26), the second spacecraft that Russia will send to the Moon as part of its latest lunar program.

According to previously released reports, the first spacecraft marking Russia’s return to the Moon will be a lander – Luna 25 (formerly known as the Luna-Glob Lander) – that will be sent to the Moon’s south pole, possibly landing in the Boguslavsky crater. The last published launch date for the lander is sometime in 2019.

Next will be the Luna-26 orbital spacecraft which will circle the Moon in a near lunar orbit, and it will be tasked to gather information from the Luna 25 lander and transmit that data back to Earth as well carrying out research using other onboard instrumentation.

The third mission, following behind the orbiter, is scheduled to be another lander – Luna 27 (Luna-Resurs Lander) – with an advanced cryogenic drilling system. Luna 27 is planned to land in the South Pole–Aitken basin – an unexplored region on the Moon’s far side.

The fourth mission of the project is slated to send an unmanned, automated space station to the Moon. The Luna-Grunt (Moon-Soil) station would be capable of deploying a lander to retrieve samples which would be returned to Earth.

The entire project is presumed to be a precursor for a manned lunar landing sometime in 2029, with the possibility of the development of a permanent lunar base.



Lloyd Campbell’s first interest in space began when he was a very young boy in the 1960s with NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs. That passion continued in the early 1970s with our continued exploration of our Moon, and was renewed by the Shuttle Program. Having attended the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on its final two missions, STS-131, and STS-133, he began to do more social networking on space and that developed into writing more in-depth articles. Since then he’s attended the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, the agency’s new crew-rated Orion spacecraft on Exploration Flight Test 1, and multiple other uncrewed launches. In addition to writing, Lloyd has also been doing more photography of launches and aviation. He enjoys all aspects of space exploration, both human, and robotic, but his primary passions lie with human exploration and the vehicles, rockets, and other technologies that allow humanity to explore space.

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