NASA has chosen Nokia to build 4G network on the Moon

The Artemis programme aims to establish sustainable human presence on the lunar surface

Nokia was chosen by NASA to build a 4G network on the Moon as part of the space agency's Artemis programme, which aims to establish a sustainable human presence there. The Finnish company will build the technology which will be integrated into NASA's lunar landers and used for remote control, as well as streaming of high-definition videos, Sky News reported.

The Artemis programme, named after the mythological sister of Apollo, the first Moon mission's namesake, aims to take the first woman and the next man to the lunar surface by 2024.

SpaceX and Blue Origin have been given the nod to develop the new lunar landers which will take the astronauts to the surface of the Moon from orbit.

The private spaceflight companies, owned by Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, will develop competing systems in parallel, alongside a third company called Dynetics, but NASA will eventually choose one.

NASA intends to establish a “Lunar Gateway” outpost which will be orbiting the Moon by the mid-2020s, and then lunar landers to deliver cargo to the surface by the late 2020s.

Nokia Bell Labs' pioneering innovations will be used to build and deploy the first ultra-compact, low-power, space-hardened, end-to-end LTE solution on the lunar surface in late 2022, the company explained. Nokia is partnering with Intuitive Machines for this mission to integrate this groundbreaking network into their lunar lander and deliver it to the lunar surface. The network will self-configure upon deployment and establish the first LTE communications system on the Moon. The network will provide critical communication capabilities for many different data transmission applications, including vital command and control functions, remote control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation and streaming of high-definition video. These communication applications are all vital to long-term human presence on the lunar surface.

Through the Tipping Point solicitation, NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate seeks industry-developed space technologies that can foster the development of commercial space capabilities and benefit future NASA missions. The public-private partnerships established through Tipping Point selections combine NASA resources with industry contributions, shepherding the development of critical space technologies.

“We are now building the first ever cellular communications network on the Moon,” said Marcus Weldon, Chief Technology Officer at Nokia and Nokia Bell Labs President, and added: “Reliable, resilient and high-capacity communications networks will be key to supporting sustainable human presence on the lunar surface.”

Nokia's lunar network is a little different from what it uses on Earth, primarily because the kit itself needs to be able to “withstand the harsh conditions of the launch and lunar landing, and to operate in the extreme conditions of space”.

But, other than that, it will be normal 4G, including a base station, radio antennas, and user equipment - although it isn't clear how different this equipment is going to be from normal smartphones.

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