NASA named Nokia as a partner to advance technologies for the Moon, deploying what both say is the first LTE/4G communications system in space. Nokia Bell Labs will be used to build and deploy an ultra-compact, low-power, space-hardened, end-to-end LTE solution on the lunar surface in late 2022. Nokia is partnering with Intuitive Machines to integrate this 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 idea is to establish sustainable operations on the Moon in preparation for an expedition to Mars.
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, according to proponents.
Nokia says its LTE network – the precursor to 5G – is suited to provide wireless connectivity for any activity that astronauts need to carry out, enabling voice and video communications capabilities, telemetry and biometric data exchange, and deployment and control of robotic and sensor payloads.
Marcus Weldon, Chief Technology Officer at Nokia and Nokia Bell Labs President, said: “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.”
Nokia’s lunar network consists of an LTE base station with integrated Evolved Packet Core functionalities, LTE User Equipment, RF antennas and high-reliability operations and maintenance control software. The solution has been specially designed to withstand the harsh conditions of the launch and lunar landing, and to operate in the extreme conditions of space. The fully integrated cellular network meets stringent size, weight and power constraints of space payloads in an extremely compact form factor.