SSTL’s Demonstration of Technology-4 lunar communications satellite.
Credit: SSTL

To change the economics of space around the Moon – that’s the plan from Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL).

A leading smallsat developer, SSTL is designing a low cost, roughly 80 pound (35 kilograms) lunar communications satellite mission called Demonstration of Technology-4, or DoT-4 for space shorthand.

SSTL’s Demonstration of Technology-4 satellite.
Credit: SSTL

Targeted for a 2021 launch, DoT-4 will be the pre-cursor mission for a larger lunar communications satellite to follow in the 2023 timeframe. That spacecraft would carry a more robust payload and also have the potential for navigation services.

Credit: Goonhilly Deep Space Network

Deep space network

According to a SSTL statement, DoT-4 will provide the communications relay back to Earth using the Goonhilly Deep Space Network in Cornwall, South West England, and will link up with a rover on the surface of the Moon.

Goonhilly is developing the capability to support the exploration of Lunar and Deep Space for institutions and private enterprise. The Goonhilly Earth Station endeavor is focused on becoming the world’s first commercial deep-space communications station, capable of tracking future missions to the Moon and Mars.

Small step

DoT-4 will prove technologies in the lunar environment and enable testing of radio communications with landers and rovers on the Moon’s surface.

“During the test phase, we will assess the compatibility of our proximity communications with the surface assets and we will verify the Earth communication link with several ground stations,” says Gary Lay, SSTL’s Director of Navigation and Exploration. “This small step will establish an infrastructure around the Moon to enable others to explore beyond Earth’s orbit.”

SSTL explains that they are currently in discussions with a number of parties for the lunar mission, and expects to disclose further information on mission partners and funding early in 2019.

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