Can you hear me now? A cell phone company humorously asked that question. It was advertising clear coverage in unusual settings and faraway lands—on Earth. But now another cellular company’s future service location will be literally out of this world. Nokia plans to build the first cellular communications network on the Moon.
NASA has employed 14 companies to provide technology for its Artemis Moon-landing program. (For more on Artemis, see Lunar Laws.) The program’s goal is to establish a long-term human presence on the Moon.
With future travel and research in mind, the U.S. space agency is also funding multiple innovations for upcoming Moon ventures. NASA says work is being done on cryogenic (extremely low temperature) fluid management. It’s also working on descent and landing skills. That’s important given the Moon’s uneven, rocky terrain and thick regolith (Moon dust).
Nokia is among the chosen companies. NASA engaged Nokia to build the first high-performance wireless network for use on Earth’s Moon. Nokia chief technology officer Marcus Weldon says Nokia can provide “reliable, resilient, and high-capacity communications networks.” He says such systems “will be key to supporting sustainable human presence on the lunar surface.”
The Nokia Bell Labs division must build a strong and speedy cellular communications system to work on the Moon. The equipment will feature a base station, antennas, and software. All devices must withstand harsh launches and landings and the extreme conditions of outer space.
Weldon says, “Nokia Bell Labs is once again planting the flag for pioneering innovation.”
The Finnish electronics maker plans to deploy its ground-breaking, high-flying network on a lunar lander. The goal is to head to the Moon in late 2022.
Nokia will provide essential communications know-how. The company’s expertise is needed for many tasks which astronauts will conduct in space. Those will likely include remote control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation, high-definition video streaming, and data transmission.
To accomplish its mammoth Moon mission, Nokia is partnering with another U.S. company. Intuitive Machines is building a small “hopper lander.” Such a vehicle can access lunar craters. It will carry out high-resolution surveys of the lunar surface over a short distance. The lander will transport Nokia’s equipment to diverse parts of Earth’s dusty God-created satellite.
Nokia hopes its state-of-the-art equipment will enable future space voyages—and that putting humans on the Moon is merely a warm-up for the next space challenge: Mars.