Nokia to build cellular network on the Moon

20th October 2020 By: Natasha Odendaal - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Information and communication technology giant Nokia has been selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to deploy the first long-term evolution (LTE) / fourth-generation (4G) communications system on the Moon.

Nokia Bell Labs’ pioneering innovations will be used to build and deploy the first ultra-compact, low-power, space-hardened, end-to-end LTE solution on the lunar surface in late 2022.

This formed part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate Tipping Point initiative to select partners whose technologies can foster the development of commercial space capabilities and benefit future NASA missions, as well as help forge a path to sustainable Artemis operations on the Moon by the end of the decade.

According to NASA, a technology is considered at a tipping point if an investment in a demonstration will significantly mature the technology, increase the likelihood of infusion into a commercial space application and bring the technology to market for both government and commercial applications.

On October 14, NASA announced the fifth Tipping Point solicitations in which Nokia was selected.

“The public-private partnerships established through Tipping Point selections combine NASA resources with industry contributions, shepherding the development of critical space technologies,” said Nokia CTO and Nokia Bell Labs president Marcus Weldon.

The high-capacity wireless 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 voice and video communication capabilities, and is well suited for telemetry and biometric data exchange and deployment and control of robotic and sensor payloads.

“Nokia is partnering with Intuitive Machines for this mission to integrate this ground-breaking 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,” he 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.”

Nokia’s lunar network comprises an LTE base station with integrated evolved packet core functionalities, LTE user equipment, RF antennas and high-reliability operations and maintenance control software.

The fully integrated cellular network has been specially designed to withstand the harsh conditions of the launch and lunar landing, and to operate in the extreme conditions of space and meets the very stringent size, weight and power constraints of space payloads in an extremely compact form factor.

“Nokia plans to supply commercial LTE products and provide technology to expand the commercialisation of LTE, and to pursue space applications of LTE’s successor technology, fifth-generation,” Weldon concluded.