NASA Plans Commercial Comsat Network for Moon

Commercial Communications Satellites for the Moon
IEEE Spectrum
Jim Oberg

NASA is planning to rely on commercial communications and navigation services to support missions to the moon in the next decade, say engineers at Johnson Space Center, in Houston.

The network, consisting of moon-orbiting satellites and ground stations on Earth, would initially serve robotic lunar missions by NASA, other governments, and private ventures. It would expand to provide 70 percent of the communication requirements for human space missions by the end of 2020, according to NASA documents. The network is especially needed for future low-power sensors on the moon and to reach lunar areas not directly visible from Earth or Earth-orbiting satellites, such as the moon’s farside and the insides of craters at its poles.

Lead engineer Rob Kelso says NASA has already begun discussions with satellite communications industry experts to figure out the bandwidth and system architecture requirements needed for such a network. However, at this point, NASA is focused on the business structure of the network and finding “a mutually acceptable approach to balancing investment, commitment, and risk,” says Kelso.

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