NASA grants Nokia $14.1m. to set up 4G cell service on the moon
“This fully integrated cellular network meets the stringent size, weight and power constraints of space payloads in the smallest possible form factor.”
A super moon is pictured at the beginning of a total lunar eclipse above Rafah in southern Gaza Strip, on September 28, 2015.
(photo credit: ABED RAHIM KHATIB/FLASH90)
NASA plans to return to the moon in 2024, and it intends to do so with 4G communications already on the lunar service, provided by Nokia, United Press International (UPI) reported.
The announcement was made as part of a series of new contracts in lunar surface research missions the space agency announced Wednesday. These contracts are par of a larger goal, which sees NASA work to develop new technologies to eventually allow astronauts to live and work on a lunar base by 2028, according to NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine in a live broadcast, UPI reported.
“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 explained.
The contracts altogether added up to a value of $370 million, with most of the more lucrative deals going towards larger space companies, such as SpaceX. However, a total of $14.1 million was allocated to Nokia.
Nokia’s innovation arm Bell Labs commented on the announcement on Twitter.
“Our pioneering innovations will be used to build and deploy the first wireless network on the moon, starting with #4G/LTE technologies and evolving to #5G,” Bell Labs explained.
“The mission critical LTE network we have developed has been specially designed to withstand the extreme temperature, radiation and the vacuum conditions of space, as well as the sizable vibrational impact during launch and landing on the lunar surface. This fully integrated cellular network meets the stringent size, weight and power constraints of space payloads in the smallest possible form factor.”
Having cell service on the moon could allow for communication between rovers, landers and astronauts, as explained by NSA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s associate administrator Jim Reuter, UPI reported.
“The system would also extend to spacecraft,” Reuter said. “With NASA funding, Nokia will look at how terrestrial technology could be modified for the lunar environment to support reliable, high-rate communications.”
“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 on its website.
This is not the telecommunication firm’s first attempt at going to the moon. Back in 2018, Nokia planned a moon mission alongside British company Vodafone, where they would use a SpaceX-made rocket and a lander and rovers made by Audi to be able to examine the lunar roving vehicle left behind by the Apollo 17 astronauts in 1972, though this plan never came to fruition, UPI reported.