NASA has selected Nokia to put the first ever cell network on the moon, reports the Associated Press (AP).
Nokia’s Bell Labs subsidiary plans to build a 4G cellular communications network that will be deployed via a lunar lander near the end of 2022, per the AP.
In a statement, the Finnish telecommunications manufacturer says its “ultra-compact, low-power, space-hardened” system will be integrated with Intuitive Machines’ lunar lander, which will deliver it to the moon’s surface. Nokia’s system is expected to include a base station, antennas and software, according to the AP.
Per Nokia’s statement, cellular connectivity on the moon will facilitate wireless “command and control functions, remote control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation and streaming of high definition video.”
Putting 4G on the moon “could support lunar surface communications at greater distances, increased speeds and provide more reliability than current standards," says NASA in a statement quoted by Paul Brinkmann of United Press International (UPI). Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, tells UPI that cell service will facilitate easy, fast and reliable communication between spacecraft, landers, rovers, habitats and individual astronauts on the moon.
The move to establish 4G on the moon is part of NASA’s plan to establish a long-term human presence on the moon by 2030, which the agency hopes will help pave the way for the first human mission to Mars, reports Agence France-Presse (AFP). More specifically, the $14.1 million contract awarded to Nokia is part of the space agency’s Artemis program, which seeks to put the first ever woman on the moon by 2024, per AFP.
Including Nokia’s contract, NASA announced a total of $370 million worth of contracts to 14 companies aimed at developing technologies relevant to space exploration, according to the AP. Other projects that received funding included robotics and methods for harvesting key resources, such as water and sources of energy, while on the moon.
Nokia’s collaborator, Intuitive Machines, was tapped to create a "hopping robot" capable of carrying small amounts of cargo from place to place on the lunar surface, according to UPI. NASA also tells the AP that SpaceX received $53.2 million to demonstrate a system capable of transferring ten metric tons of liquid oxygen between tanks on a spacecraft.