Nokia has secured a $14.1 million deal with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to build a 4G cellphone network on the moon.
NASA is pushing toward a return to the moon in 2024, and has a $370 million fund for contracts geared toward the mission dubbed Artemis, which is expected to include at least one woman. Most of the fund has gone to space companies including SpaceX and United Launch Alliance to perfect techniques to make and handle rocket propellant in space, according to the statement from the US space Agency.
The Finish telecom giant is partnering with NASA to develop a network on the moon that will enable a new wave of astronauts to share their space experience via Instagram if they wish.
NASA has a 2028 goal to have astronauts working on the lunar base, and it is developing new technologies for working and living in the moon.
“We need power systems that can last a long time on the surface of the moon, and we need habitation capability on the surface,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
Nokia’s North America subsidiary won the contract but will be supported by its European parent. The deal will help the communication company to realize its moon mission goal, announced in 2018, in collaboration with British Vodafone. The companies had planned to launch a lander and rovers built by Audi, utilizing a SpaceX rocket.
The UPI said the companies had planned to touch down near the Apollo 17 landing site and have rovers examine the Lunar Roving Vehicle, or moon buggy, astronauts left behind in 1972. But the plan never materialized.
Now, the NASA deal has offered Nokia the opportunity to fulfill the lunar dream, though it is about communication this time.
“Having cellular service on the moon could support communication between lunar landers, rovers, habitats and astronauts,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.
“The system would also extend to spacecraft. With NASA funding, Nokia will look at how terrestrial technology could be modified for the lunar environment to support reliable, high-rate communications,” he added.
While some details of the mission, including landing site, are still missing, Bridenstine explained that the contracts are geared toward NASA’s Tipping Point program, which funds technologies that, if demonstrated successfully, are likely to be adopted by private industry.
“We want to build the [lunar] infrastructure… that is going to enable an international partnership for the biggest, broadest, most diverse inclusive coalition of researchers and explorers in the history of humankind,” he said.
The $370 million fund covers other Artemis-related projects. UPI named a few of the technologies funded alongside Nokia’s moon project, including demonstrations of lunar surface power generation and energy storage: Development of a hopping robot that could launch and carry small payloads from one lunar site to another, by Houston-based Intuitive Machines; and the creation of a small laboratory that could land on the moon’s surface and allow researchers to study how the extreme temperatures and radiation affect materials and electronics.
However, as much as Nokia’s lunar project will change space radio-based communication; the choice of 4G network questions the reliability of 5G. XDA Developers said 4G has been chosen because 5G signals can only reach shorter distances, which means more stations will be required.
“4G will do an ample job in those early days, with far less infrastructure. Maybe the moon will get a 5G (or even 6G) upgrade once we’re settled on the surface,” the report said.