Lunar Ride and Phone Home Service
Credit: SSTL

 

There are new partnerships afoot that make the commercial lunar economy a potential actuality. A newly-inked collaboration agreement is geared to commercial Moon missions.

In this instance, the European Space Agency partnered with the U.K.’s Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) group and the Goonhilly Earth Station in Cornwall, England.

Goonhilly is an independent, privately-owned business providing a complete range of satellite communications services and a range of space and data related services.

No stranger to lunar exploration duties, Goonhilly beamed the Apollo 11 Moon landing to millions of viewers in 1969. The new partnership, dubbed the Lunar Pathfinder mission – steps forward to implement a sustainable, long-term commercial service that supports lunar scientific and economic development, both for Europe and other nations.

Moon village advocate, ESA’s chief, Johann-Dietrich Woerner.
Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja

Moon Village support

The intention by Goonhilly is to help catalyze the lunar economy and provide affordable services at the Moon and beyond.

In signing the agreement last week, David Parker, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA, called the first partnership for providing commercial services in support of lunar missions as enabling ESA to deliver innovative lunar missions at lower costs.

“This commercial partnership is part of a broader ESA innovation plan,” he said, one that “is consistent with the ESA Director General’s wider Moon Village concept, in which actors around the world can contribute in different ways to sustained lunar exploration.”

Commercial interest in returning to the Moon.
Photo Credit: NASA/GSFC

Ride and phone home

The signed partnership leads to the maturation of the Lunar Pathfinder space segment for a low cost “Ride and Phone Home” capability.

The Lunar Pathfinder mission will offer a ticket to lunar orbit for payloads and nanosats onboard an SSTL lunar mothership spacecraft that provides communications data relay and navigation services between customer payloads and the Goonhilly Earth Station Deep Space ground station.

Private and government-sponsored lunar landers, rovers and surface impactors will also be able to sign up to use the lunar communications and navigation services provided by the mothership either for primary mission operations, to provide additional capacity, or as a back-up service.


Moon’s far side captured by NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR).
Credit: NOAA/NASA

Far side.com

For prospecting, exploring, and ultimately utilizing the far side of the Moon, this communications relay service is viewed as a mission enabler, providing the bridge between Earth and the lunar surface.

According to an SSTL statement, the stable elliptical orbit of the mothership will allow for long duration visibility of the Southern Lunar Hemisphere each day, with maximum opportunities for the transmission and reception of data between Earth and the lunar surface.

Alice Bunn, International Director at the UK Space Agency, added that while the new agreement covers missions to the Moon, “there is no reason why we couldn’t see a similar service for Mars in the future.”

Prospective customers for Lunar Ride and Phone Home opportunities are encouraged to contact:

lunar@sstl.co.uk

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