Moon getting 4G coverage? Nokia wins NASA contract to roll out LTE on lunar surface
NASA, the US-based space agency has awarded Nokia USD 14.1 million to deploy a 4G cellular network on the moon.
Nokia’s plan is to build a 4G/LTE network, and eventually transition to 5G. It will be “the first LTE/4G communications system in space,” according to NASA’s announcement.
The grant is part of USD 370 million worth of contracts signed under NASA’s “Tipping Point” selections, meant to advance research and development for space exploration.
“The system could support lunar surface communications at greater distances, increased speeds and provide more reliability than current standards,” NASA noted in its contract award announcement.
NASA has picked 14 US companies, including several small businesses, as partners and awarded them USD 370 million in total to develop a range of technologies that will help forge a path to sustainable Artemis operations on the Moon by the end of the decade.
The selected companies include SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, Nokia, Sierra Nevada, SSL Robotics and United Launch Alliance (ULA), among others.
The majority of the funding will help mature cryogenic fluid management technologies via in-space demonstrations led by small business Eta Space, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, and ULA.
According to United Press International, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a live broadcast said that the space agency must quickly develop new technologies for living and working on the moon if it wants to realise its goal to have astronauts working at a lunar base by 2028.
“We need power systems that can last a long time on the surface of the moon, and we need habitation capability on the surface,” Bridenstine said.
Nokia’s research arm, Bell Labs, provided more details in a Twitter thread. The company intends for the network to support wireless operation of lunar rovers and navigation, as well as streaming video.
To the moon!
We are excited to have been named by @NASA as a key partner to advance “Tipping Point” technologies for the moon, to help pave the way towards sustainable human presence on the lunar surface.
So, what technology can you expect to see? (1/6) pic.twitter.com/wDNwloyHdP
— Bell Labs (@BellLabs) October 15, 2020
“Working with our partners at @Int_Machines, this groundbreaking network will be the critical communications fabric for data transmission applications, including the control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation over lunar geography and streaming of high definition video,” Bell Labs said in a tweet.
This is not Nokia’s first attempt to launch an LTE network on the moon. It was planned to do this in 2018 in collaboration with PTScientists, a German space company, and Vodafone UK to launch an LTE network at the site of the Apollo 17 landing, but the mission never got off the ground.