NASA said that it eventually will upgrade the 4G network on the Moon to 5G
NASA intends to return to the Moon in 2024, and when it does, it wants reliable cellular coverage. To make this a reality, the space agency has provided Nokia with $14.1 million in funding to build out a 4G LTE cellular network on the moon’s surface.
While putting LTE service on the moon might be worth it simply for that bragging rights, NASA has practical reasons for the deployment.
NASA Associate Administrator James Reuter told United Press International that equipping the Moon with cellular service could enable communication between lunar habitats and the astronauts out exploring its surface, as well as allow the agency to communicate with spacecrafts.
“With NASA funding, Nokia will look at how terrestrial technology could be modified for the lunar environment to support reliable, high-rate communications,” he commented.
The contract with Nokia is part of a larger, $370 million in new Artemis funding NASA announced this week. SpaceX and United Launch Alliance saw most of the funding.
Nokia Bell Labs’ said that by late 2022, it will have built and deployed the first ultra-compact, low-power, space-hardened, end-to-end LTE solution that will self-configure upon deployment on the lunar surface. To accomplish this goal, Nokia is teaming up with Intuitive Machines.
The company is confident that its LTE network is “ideally suited for providing wireless connectivity for any activity that astronauts need to carry out,” such as voice and video communications capabilities, telemetry and biometric data exchange and deployment and control of robotic and sensor payloads.
Chief Technology Officer at Nokia and Nokia Bell Labs President Marcus Weldon, commented further:”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. 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.”
More specifically, the lunar network will consist of an LTE Base Station with integrated Evolved Packet Core (EPC) functionalities, LTE User Equipment, RF antennas and high-reliability operations and maintenance (O&M) control software, and the solution has been designed to withstand the harsh conditions of the launch and lunar landing, as well as those present in space.
The long-term plan is no different than the one we have on Earth. NASA said that it eventually will upgrade its 4G network to 5G.
Nokia has had its sights set on space since 2018, when it partnered with German space firm PTScientists and UK carrier Vodafone to use the 1800 MHz band to transmit scientific data and HD video from the moon’s Audi lunar rovers to servers in Berlin.
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