NASA and Nokia Are Building a 4G Cellular Network on the Moon

Cellular service that’s out of the world? A new collaboration between NASA and Nokia is quite literally reaching for the moon.

Astronauts might be able to tag their social media photos from the moon in real time soon. Last week, NASA announced that it granted a $14.1 million contract to Nokia Bell Labs to build a lunar 4G-LTE network.

The technology will establish “critical communication capabilities” for data transmission of all kinds, like lunar rover remote control functions, real-time navigation, high-definition video streaming, and command control functions, the Finnish tech company Nokia said in a release today. “Reliable, resilient, and high-capacity communications networks will be key to supporting sustainable human presence on the lunar surface,” Marcus Weldon, Nokia’s chief technology officer and Nokia Bell Labs president, said in the statement.

Currently, the communication system on the moon is based on radio standards, CNN Business explains. While the 4G-LTE network will have to be built out differently to meet lunar conditions — like extreme temperatures, radiation, and space vacuum — it will likely be stronger than on Earth because of the lack of trees, buildings, and other signals getting in its way, the news outlet explains. Like on our planet, the network will eventually be able to convert into 5G.

the moon

The project is part of NASA’s Artemis program, which includes the goal of sending the first woman and next man to the moon by 2024. The government space agency awarded 14 companies a total of $370 million as part of its Tipping Point competition to develop technologies in the areas of lunar surface innovation, cryogenic fluid management, and closed-loop descent and landing capability.

The Nokia initiative was specifically awarded to its American division, Nokia of America Corporation of Sunnyvale, California, which will work with spaceflight engineering company Intuitive Machines, based in Houston.

Other lunar projects include SSL Robotics of Pasadena, California, developing a lighter and more cost-efficient robotic arm for lunar surface work; pH Matter of Columbus, Ohio, testing future infrastructure by harvesting water on the moon; and Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh working on a fast-speed wireless charging system for lunar technology.

Back in 2018, Vodafone and Nokia partnered up, aiming to bring 4G to the moon in 2019 for the 50th anniversary of the first lunar walk, but Nokia is now hailing this current project as the “first-ever cellular network on the moon.”

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