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SSTL and Telespazio to Explore a Lunar Telecommunication System for ESA

By | May 21, 2021

A rendering of the Moonlight communication system. Photo: SSTL, ESA

The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) and Telespazio to lead two consortiums to study how to provide telecommunications and navigation services for missions to the Moon. 

The ESA Moonlight initiative, announced May 20, seeks to lay out a path for a constellation of lunar communication and navigation satellites as an end-to-end system, complete with a Moon ground segment and an Earth ground segment. Such a constellation would allow missions on the far side of the Moon to keep in contact with Earth, without a direct line of sight to Earth. 

“A lasting link with the Moon enables sustainable space exploration for all our international partners, including commercial space companies. By using an ESA-backed telecommunications and navigation service for the Moon, explorers will be able to navigate smoothly and to relay to Earth all the knowledge gained from these lunar missions,” commented Elodie Viau, ESA’s director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications. 

The list of companies working on the project is a who’s who of European satellite and space players. SSTL’s consortium includes Airbus, SES, Kongsberg Satellite Services, the Goonhilly Earth station, and GMV-NSL

Telespazio’s consortium includes Thales Alenia Space, Inmarsat, MDA, OHB System, Hispasat, ALTEC, Argotec, Nanoracks Europe, and universities and research centers. 

At the end of the study phase, ESA plans to select an operator for the management of the LCNS system and the supply of services.