Credit: Nokia/Bell Labs

Nokia’s Bell Labs is working under a new $14.1 million NASA Tipping Point award to deploy the first LTE/4G (Long-Term Evolution) communications system in space. The system could support lunar surface communications at greater distances, increased speeds, and provide more reliability than current standards.

According to Bell Labs, the first wireless network on the Moon would start with 4G/LTE technologies and evolve to 5G.

Bell Labs is partnered with Intuitive Machines of Houston, a group that also was awarded a $41.6 million Tipping Point award to develop a small, deployable hopper lander capable of carrying a 2.2-pound (1-kilogram) payload more than 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers). This hopper could access lunar craters and enable high-resolution surveying of the lunar surface over a short distance.

NASA has selected Intuitive Machines to deliver a drill combined with a mass spectrometer to the Moon.
Credit: NASA

Back in April, Intuitive Machines (IM) engineers selected an area in Oceanus Procellarum near Vallis Schröteri as the landing site for its upcoming IM-1 lunar mission with an anticipated launch date in
October 2021.

On October 16, NASA also selected IM to deliver the Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment (PRIME-1) drill, combined with a mass spectrometer, to the Moon by December 2022. The ice drilling mission is the Houston-based company’s second Moon contract award under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.

Credit: Intuitive Machines

High-definition streaming

According to Bell Labs, the communications network will be keyed to data transmission applications, including the control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation over lunar geography, & streaming of high definition video.

The mission critical Long-Term Evolution network is specially designed to withstand the extreme temperature, radiation and vacuum conditions of space, as well as vibration impact during launch and landing on the lunar surface.

“This fully integrated cellular network meets the stringent size, weight and power constraints of space payloads in the smallest possible form factor,” reports Bell Labs. “This mission will validate the future of other operational deployments and the potential for human habitation on the Moon.

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