A prototype of a satellite to orbit the moon, designed by a dozen Utah State University students, will be presented to NASA officials next week, USU officials say.

"The prospecting satellite presumes the existence of a lunar colony," Frank Redd, research director at USU's Center for Space Engineering, said Wednesday.The lunar satellite, complete with a propulsion system, would circle the moon attempting to identify chemical and mineral deposits and geological formations, Redd said, while mapping the surface.

The information would be fed back to a people in a lunar colony, he said, to help them locate resources that could be developed.

The USU students are among 20 U.S. university teams invited to the NASA Space Systems Design Program conference at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

"Our design program is supported by a $22,000 NASA grant that pays for materials and travel to the conference," Redd said. "It also pays for a 10-week summer internship at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory," Pasadena, Calif.

Last year, another USU student team attended a similar conference in Washington, D.C. They presented NASA officials a design for a Mars land-rover, to explore the surface of that planet.

"The Mars design led to a $50,000 contract from McDonnell-Douglas to design a manned space-servicing module," Redd said.

McDonnell-Douglas has a research and development contract for a U.S. space station, which NASA hopes to launch by about 2005, he said.