NASA and Nokia to build the first 4G network on the Moon
NASA’s plans to return to the Moon involve not just safely landing humans on the surface, but putting in place the infrastructure to support a long-term lunar base. As part of this vision, the agency has selected Nokia to help it build the natural satellite's first ever cellular network, which is expected to be rolled out in late 2022.
The collaboration is part of NASA’s Tipping Point program, through which the agency hopes to accelerate the development of space-based technologies through investments with private firms. It awarded Nokia US$14.1 million for its plan to deploy the first LTE/4G communications system in space, which will be key for NASA's Artemis program and hopes of establishing a sustainable presence on the Moon.
Nokia’s research arm Bell Labs is teaming up with private space company Intuitive Machines for the effort, and will pack its end-to-end LTE solution into the firm’s lunar lander. This will include an LTE base station, user equipment and RF antennas, all designed to endure the physical demands of launching, landing and operating in space.
Once in place, the network will offer communications support for data transmission, control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation and streaming of high-definition video. It will also provide astronauts with greater voice and video communications capabilities, telemetry and biometric data transmission and control over robotic payloads.
“Reliable, resilient and high-capacity communications networks will be key to supporting sustainable human presence on the lunar surface,” says Marcus Weldon, Chief Technology Officer at Nokia. “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.”