NASA has chosen Nokia to install its future 4G network on the Moon, as part of the Artemis program. What will this infrastructure be used for, which will have to operate under extreme conditions?
NASA has chosen its partner to install a 4G network on the Moon, as part of its “Tipping Point” competition. The space agency announced on October 14, 2020 that it would work with Nokia, giving it a budget of $ 14.1 million in order to " deploy the first LTE / 4G communication system in space ".
Why seek to deploy a 4G network on the Moon? The project should help support the ambitions of the agency, which aims for a human return to the Moon in 2024 as part of its Artemis program. But, in concrete terms, what types of technologies and what uses can we expect? " The system could support lunar surface communications at greater distances, increased speeds and provide more reliability than current standards “, Explains NASA in its press release.
Through the Bell Labs Twitter account (the labs acquired by Nokia in 2016), Nokia gave some additional details about its involvement in setting up a 4G network on the Moon. The company specifies that the objective is, after installing the " first wireless network on the moon »In 4G, to move on to 5G (in France, 5G is deployed this year). Nokia specifies that its work will be done in collaboration with Intuitive Machines, an American company which has also signed a contract with NASA to develop a lunar lander, Nova-C.
The 4G network is to be used to transmit data, which will relate to the control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation on the Moon, as well as the streaming of videos in high definition, predicts Bell Labs.
Installations that will have to operate in harsh conditions
The challenge, of course, is to design installations that are robust enough to provide a 4G network under extreme conditions, whether it be the temperature, radiation or space vacuum of the lunar environment. These facilities will also need to withstand vibrations during takeoff and landing impacts. Nokia ensures that the network was designed specifically for this. " This fully integrated cellular network meets the stringent size, weight and power constraints of space payloads in the smallest possible form factors ", add Bell Labs on Twitter.
The presence of the 4G network is envisaged as one of the means of perpetuating the human presence on the Moon, which is an aspect of the Artémis program, with the future Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway space station. It is not known within what timeframe Nokia must have completed construction of this infrastructure, but NASA says it will enter into contracts for a maximum of 5 years with the companies selected in its Tipping Point.
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