While the world is busy fussing over major 5G deployments and smartphones, NASA is looking beyond the stratosphere, interested in setting up its own wireless network in outer space.
While the world is busy fussing over major 5G deployments and smartphones, NASA is looking beyond the stratosphere, interested in setting up its own wireless network in outer space. Now, the American space agency has commissioned $14.1 million to Bell Labs, a research and development firm owned by Nokia, to build the first-ever 4G network on the moon. Eventually, the two plan to upgrade the network to 5G.
"Working with our partners at [Intuitive Machines], this groundbreaking network will be the critical communications fabric for data transmission applications, including the control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation over lunar geography, & streaming of high definition video," Bell Labs tweeted.
The LTE network Bell Labs has developed has been specially designed to withstand the extreme temperature, radiation and vacuum conditions of space, as well as the sizable vibrational impact during launch and landing on the lunar surface. It will also be as compact as possible.
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"This mission will validate the future of other operational deployments and the potential for human habitation on the moon," Bell Labs said.
Indeed, NASA is actively working to put humans back on the Moon, specifically the first woman and the next man, by 2024 as part of its Project Artemis program.
Bell Labs joins over a dozen other companies NASA is commissioning in 2020 as part of its Tipping Points scheme, which funds lunar tech developments for the Artemis program, as Business Insider explains. This represents the fifth and highest-value "Tipping Point" funding round to date, worth over $370 million.
Other companies being commissioned include Elon Musk's SpaceX ($53.2 million), aerospace and defense company Lockheed Martin ($89.7 million), and rocket manufacturer United Launch Alliance ($86.2 million).
“NASA's significant investment in innovative technology demonstrations, led by small and large U.S. businesses across nine states, will expand what is possible in space and on the lunar surface,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Together, NASA and industry are building up an array of mission-ready capabilities to support a sustainable presence on the Moon and future human missions to Mars.”
As per NASA, the contracts were awarded across three topic areas: cryogenic fluid management; lunar surface; and closed-loop descent and landing capability demonstrations.