Cellular Service That’s Out of This World
As soon as 2024, we may be seeing humans revisit the moon. Except this time, we should be able to communicate with them in real time from a cellular device. Down here on Earth, the competition between telecom providers is as intense as ever. However, Nokia may have just taken one giant leap over its competitors, with the announcement of expanding into a new market, winning a $14.1 million contract from Nasa to put a 4G network on the moon.
Why put a communications network on the moon?
Now, you may be wondering, “why would we need a telecommunications network on the mood?” According to Nokia Labs researchers, installing a 4G network on the surface of Earth’s natural satellite will help show whether it’s possible to have human habitation on the moon. By adopting a super-compact, low-power, space-hardened, wireless 4G network, it will greatly increase the US space agency’s plan to establish a long-term human presence on the moon by 2030. Astronauts will begin carrying out detailed experiments and explorations which the agency hopes will help it develop its first human mission to Mars.
Nokia’s 4G LTE network, the predecessor to 5G, will deliver key 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. The network is perfectly capable of supplying wireless connectivity for any activity that space travelers may need to carry out, enabling voice and video communications capabilities, telemetry and biometric data exchange, and deployment and control of robotic and sensor payloads.
How can Nokia pull this off?
When it comes to space travel and moon landings in the past, you always hear about how so much can go wrong. Look at Apollo 13 for instance. Granted, technology has vastly improved in the past half century, but it still seems like a large feat to install a network on the moon. The network Nokia plans to implement will be designed for the moon’s distinctive climate, with the ability to withstand extreme temperatures, radiation, and even vibrations created by rocket landings and launches. The moon’s 4G network will also use much smaller cells than those on Earth, having a smaller range and require less power.
Nokia is partnering with Intuitive Machines for this mission to integrate the 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. Nokia’s network equipment will be installed remotely on the moon’s surface using a lunar hopper built by Intuitive Machines in late 2022.
According to Nokia, the lunar network involves an LTE Base Station with integrated Evolved Packet Core (EPC) functionalities, LTE User Equipment, RF antennas and high-reliability operations and maintenance (O&M) control software. The same LTE technologies that have met the world’s mobile data and voice demands for the last decade are fully capable of providing mission critical and state-of-the-art connectivity and communications capabilities for the future of space exploration. Nokia plans to supply commercial LTE products and provide technology to expand the commercialization of LTE, and to pursue space applications of LTE’s successor technology, 5G.
Why did Nokia win the contract to put a network on the moon?
An industry leader in end-to-end communication technologies for service provider and enterprise customers all over the world, Nokia develops and provides networks for airports, factories, industrial, first-responders, and the harshest mining operations on Earth. Their series of networks have far proven themselves reliable for automation, data collection and dependable communications. By installing its technologies in the most extreme environment known to man, Nokia will corroborate the solution’s performance and technology readiness, enhancing it for future space missions and human inhabiting.