Commercial Off-Planet Communication and Navigation Services

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C. Cranstoun et al. (2020), JBIS, 73, pp.317-322

Refcode: 2020.73.317
Keywords: Lunar, Communications, Far-side, Data Relay, Moon, Low-cost

As the return of human missions to the lunar surface, “Forward to the Moon, ” continues to accelerate, focusing international effort and resources, there is an opportunity for Europe to position themselves as the “hub” for off-planet communication and navigation services.Combined with the push for public private partnerships, it is the right time for industry to develop and test innovative off-planet business models, taking the leap of bringing commercial and affordable services to Space Exploration, with a risk profile supported by institutions. As early as 2023, Pathfinder will be a mission enabler for polar and far-side missions, which, without direct line of sight of the Earth, would otherwise have to procure their own relay spacecraft. It will offer orbiter and near-side missions a better availability, improved data-rate and a cheaper alternative to direct to earth solutions in a crowded institutional deep-space ground stations market. By simplifying the communications solution, lunar missions will be free to use mass saved for more scientific payloads, or reduced overall missions costs. In parallel, the CLMSS partnership is working on what comes after Lunar Pathfinder, as the market opens from exploration towards In-Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) or purely commercial applications such as tourism. The service will evolve from a single spacecraft to a constellation of spacecraft around the Moon, building off the first mover advantage and establishment of the market demand, offering extended communication availability, capacity and navigation capabilities, from 2030 onwards. A go decision was enacted at the Space 19+ ESA Ministerial.

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