ESA planning satellite-based coms for lunar missions
The European Space Agency (ESA) is planning a constellation of satellites that will orbit the Moon to provide navigation and communication capabilities for astronauts.
The agency said it is encouraging European space companies to get involved and it is hoped the resulting infrastructure will lower the cost of space exploration for ESA member states that may aspire to launch their own national lunar missions.
The satellites will support the Artemis Mission, which has already seen Nokia partner with NASA – through its Tipping Point programme – to connect Lunar rovers via 4G/LTE.
Part of ESA's Moonlight initiative, this project will see the deployment of an "accurate and reliable" telecommunications and navigation service, the idea being that an advanced network will enable missions to land wherever they want on the lunar surface with precision, and navigate the terrain. By way of example, ESA said this could support observatories for radio astronomers on the far side of the Moon.
ESA said its planned project could also reduce cargo loads to the Moon to "make space for more scientific instruments or other cargo".
ESA said in a statement: "To succeed, the proposed lunar missions will require reliable navigation and telecommunication capabilities. Building these independently would be costly, complex and inefficient.
"If this work were outsourced to a consortium of space companies, each individual mission would become more cost-efficient. Having one system dedicated to lunar telecommunications and navigation could reduce design complexity, liberating missions to concentrate on their core activities."
ESA has not named project partners, but Capacity has reached out for comment.