The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently announced
it selected multinational telecommunications company Nokia to build the first LTE/4G cellular network on the Moon. The company’s Bell Labs will be used to build and deploy the initial ultra-compact, low-power, space hardened end-to-end LTE solution on the Moon in late 2022. Nokia will work with Intuitive Machines to bring the lunar network into its lander as well as the Moon’s surface.
The new network will self configure when it’s deployed and establish the Moon’s first LTE communications system. Additionally, the network will provide critical communication capabilities for a variety of data transmission applications such as vital command and control functions, real-time navigation and high definition video streaming. Such communication applications will be critical to the long-term future of humans’ presence on the Moon.
Nokia’s LTE network, deemed the precursor to 5G, is expected to be well-suited to provide wireless connectivity for any activity astronauts need to perform, enable voice and video communications capabilities and robotic and senor payload deployment.
“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,” Nokia Chief Technology Officer and Nokia Bell Labs President Marcus Weldon said in a statement. “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.”
The Nokia lunar network
Nokia’s new Moon network comprises an LTE Base Station with integrated Evolved Pack Core (EPC) functionalities, LTE User Equipment, RF antennas and high-reliability operations and maintenance (O&M) control software. The solution has been built to withstand any harsh conditions that might arise from the launch and lunar landing, as well as the general extreme conditions of space. Nokia’s cellular network is fully integrated and the company said it meets all of the size, weight and power constraints of space payloads.
The LTE technologies that have met the world’s mobile data and voice needs for the last decade are just as capable of providing mission critical and state-of-the-art connectivity and communications capabilities for future space expeditions. Nokia currently has plans to provide commercial LTE products and technology to expand LTE commercialization. The company also plans to pursue space applications for 5G.
NASA looks to connect on the Moon—and beyond
From NASA’s perspective, the organization’s Space Technology Mission Directorate seeks industry-developed space tech that can develop commercial space capabilities and benefit future missions. The public-private partnerships established through Tipping Point solicitation will combine NASA’s resources with industry contributions, leading to critical space technologies. NASA will look to use these innovations for its Artemis program, which will establish sustainable operations on the Moon by the end of the decade in preparation for an expedition to Mars.
“NASA’s significant investment in innovative technology demonstrations, led by small and large U.S. businesses across nine states, will expand what is possible in space and on the lunar surface,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. “Together, NASA and industry are building up an array of mission-ready capabilities to support a sustainable presence on the Moon and future human missions to Mars.”
Joe Dyton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.