NASA has enlisted the support of Nokia to build the first ever mobile network on the moon, hoping the availability of 4G will support future missions and help establish a sustainable presence on the lunar surface.
The US space agency’s ‘Artemis’ programme hopes to achieve this by the end of the decade, paving the way for the development of commercial space services and an expedition to Mars. The creation of a communications network that can support various applications is seen as integral to this vision.
Nokia says commercial LTE technology has proven itself to be a robust capable communications standard over the past decade and is ideally suited to support the voice, video and data transmissions required by NASA.
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4G on the moon
Specifically, the planned network will support various extra-terrestrial applications, including command and control functions, the remote control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation, and high-definition video streaming.
Although based on off-the-shelf LTE innovations, the kit has been designed to be as compact and power efficient as possible and to withstand the journey from Earth, the landing on the moon, and the harsh conditions of space. The equipment, including a base station, will be integrated into a lunar lander and self-configure upon deployment.
Nokia will integrate the necessary networking gear, including an LTE base station, into a lunar lander and the network will self-configure upon deployment.
Although based on off-the shelf technology, the kit has been specially designed to survive the journey into space, the landing, and the harsh conditions on the moon. The technologies have also been designed to be as compact and efficient as possible.
There is scope for 5G applications to eventually be enabled by the network and Nokia hopes that such a high profile and innovative use case will help its efforts to secure a greater share of the fiercely-competitive telecoms equipment market.
"Leveraging our rich and successful history in space technologies, from pioneering satellite communication to discovering the cosmic microwave background radiation produced by the Big Bang, we are now building the first ever cellular communications network on the Moon,” said Marcus Weldon, Nokia CTO.
“Reliable, resilient and high-capacity communications networks will be key to supporting sustainable human presence on the lunar surface. By building the first high performance wireless network solution on the Moon, Nokia Bell Labs is once again planting the flag for pioneering innovation beyond the conventional limits.”
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