Hispasat, the Spanish satellite telecommunications operator of the Grupo Red Eléctrica, has joined an international consortium selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) and led by Telespazio, a joint venture between Leonardo (67 per cent) and Thales (33 per cent), whose purpose will be to study the design of a space infrastructure to provide lunar communication and navigation services (LCNS) by satellite, similar to those used on Earth.
The study forms part of the ESA Moonlight initiative, which will define the economically viable satellite architecture and models to provide services on diverse platforms that orbit the Moon, as well as to the settlements on lunar bases and vehicles that astronauts use (rovers, landing modules, and more). Furthermore, in its final stage the study expects to select an operator to manage the LCNS, as well as to supply services. Lastly, the consortium will also analyse if it is possible for the LCNS system to work together with LunaNet, the infrastructure that NASA is currently developing to support the missions of its Artemis programme. In addition to Hispasat, the consortium includes the satellite operator Inmarsat; manufacturers such as Thales Alenia Space, OHB and MDA; SMEs such as Nanoracks, Argotec and ALTEC; and universities and research centres such as SEE Lab SDA Bocconi and the Polytechnic University of Milan.
Antonio Abad, Hispasat’s Chief Technical Officer, commented: “Satellite communications play a definitive role to guarantee the success of future lunar exploration missions. Therefore, it is essential for the European space sector to work jointly in public-private collaboration partnerships when defining the services that will be required on these missions and to rely on the experience of a satellite operator like Hispasat to ensure that this design is as efficient and robust as possible”.
It is estimated that there will be around 80 public and private initiatives dedicated to lunar exploration over the next 10 years. This consortium will study how to provide a response to the ESA’s need to define a satellite infrastructure that satisfies the requirements of space agencies and private companies which will give rise to a true “lunar economy” in the not-so-distant future. To do so, the study includes creating different standards and service models for lunar missions based on the analysis of the market in upcoming years and the future needs of users