Work starts on Moonlight lunar network

May 21, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Works starts on Moonlight lunar data network
ESA has commissioned two European consortia to work on a lunar telecoms and data network called Moonlight

Two European groups are developing plans for the Moonlight network for satellites in orbit and basestations on the surface of the Moon

The European Space Agency this week commissioned preparatory design work for the Moonlight network from groups led by Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) in the UK and Telespazio, a joint venture of Leonardo and Thales.

Dozens of international, institutional and commercial teams are planning to send missions to the Moon, including five landers to be launched by SpaceX. Using a shared telecommunications and navigation service reduces the design complexity of future individual missions and make them lighter, freeing space for more scientific instruments or other cargo, making each individual mission more cost-effective.

The Moonlight study will define the service infrastructure and clearly lay out the development path for a constellation of Lunar communication and navigation satellites. The Study will characterise the complete end to end system, including the Lunar Space Segment, the Moon Surface Segment, the Lunar User Segment and the Earth Ground Segment.

The first stage with a data relay service is planned for launch in 2024.

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SSTL will lead the first consortium through its lunar services operation SSTL Lunar and as a maker of small satellites. The consortium also includes satellite manufacturer Airbus with satellite network providers SES, based in Luxembourg, and Kongsberg Satellite Services, based in Norway; the Goonhilly Earth Station in the UK and British satellite navigation company GMV-NSL.

The  other consortium will be spearheaded by Telespazio working with satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia Space (another joint venture between Thales and Leonardo; UK satellite operator Inmarsat; Canadian space technology company MDA; Telespazio Germany and satellite manufacturer OHB Systems in Germany. This group also includes Spanish satellite operator Hispasat, Italian Aerospace Logistics Technology Engineering Company (ALTEC), aerospace engineering company Argotec, Nanoracks Europe, the Politecnico Milano and the Università commerciale Luigi Bocconi.

Next: Moonlight satellite constellation 

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