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Can’t get a phone signal when you are out and about? That won’t happen if you are on the moon! NASA has selected Nokia to install the first cellular network on the moon. While competition among telecom providers is as stiff as ever, Nokia has now announced its foray into a new market.
The Finnish equipment maker announced its selection by NASA. It has been asked to deploy a wireless 4 network that is low-power, space-hardened, and ultra-compact. The equipment will consist of a base station, antennas, and software. The equipment maker also said in a statement that the Nokia Bell Labs division will be used to deploy the end-to-end LTE solution on the surface of the moon towards the end of 2022. Nokia’s set up will be installed remotely with the help of a lunar hopper made by Intuitive Machines. The network will configure on its own and establish the first ever LTE communications system on the lunar surface.
The LTE Base station will have integrated Evolved Packet Core (EPC) functions, RF antennas, with O&M, or, high-reliability operations and maintenance control software. The LTE technologies have been fulfilling the world’s communication needs for more than a decade and are capable to provide the mission exceptional connectivity. Communication technologies like the 4G LTE are reliable, robust, scalable, and easily installed. Future plans for the use of 5G technology are also taking shape. According to Nokia, the 4G equipment can be updated to 5G, which is super-fast in the future.
To accomplish its goal of building a lunar base and sustaining human presence on the moon by 2028, NASA has granted $370 million to various companies. Innovations like remote power generation, robotics, safe landing, cryogenic freezing, etc. are a part of the plan. Elon Musk’s SpaceX also received $53.2 million from NASA. This was for transferring ten metric tons of liquid oxygen between tanks. Bell Labs was awarded $14.1 million to build the 4G network.
Communication will be an important aspect of the Artemis program. The network will aid in providing critical information. Facets like communication capability of data transmission applications, command and control functions, real-time navigation, streaming HD videos, and remote control of rovers are a few examples. These facets play an important role in the future of human presence on the moon. The LTE network is well suited to provide wireless assistance for any activity carried out by an astronaut. A few examples are enabling voice and video communications, deployment of robotic payloads, control of sensor payloads, telemetry, exchange of biometric data.
The 4G network will probably work better on the moon than it does on the Earth. There will be no trees, TV signals, and buildings to interfere with the signal after all. The cellular network will also be designed considering extreme temperatures on the lunar surface, radiation, and vacuum. Moreover, the network will continue functioning even during launches and landings, even though rockets vibrate on the lunar surface.