At the end of 2020, Nokia announced they would celebrate the beginning of a new decade with the launch of the first extra-terrestrial cellular network with NASA.
This is an extraordinary accomplishment for Nokia, as NASA handpicked Nokia as their partner to provide critical communication technology needed for future lunar missions.
Communications will be a crucial component of any future lunar mission. Not only for astronauts to be able to communicate with one another and mission control, but also to provide critical communication capabilities for many other data transmission applications, including, high-definition video streaming, remote monitoring of sensors and instruments, exchange of telemetry & biometric data, and vital command & control functions such as the remote control of lunar rovers.
The first step to creating an extra-terrestrial cellular network starts in late 2022, with an uncrewed mission that will validate Nokia’s technology, and confirm the readiness of cellular technologies as the communication standard for space missions in the future, helping pave the way towards a sustainable human presence on the lunar surface.
For this mission, Nokia’s lunar network consists of an LTE Base Station with integrated Evolved Packet Core (EPC) functionalities, LTE User Equipment, RF antennas and high-reliability operations and maintenance (O&M) control software. The radio and modems that will be installed in lunar rovers are based on the same user equipment designs found in today’s 4G phones and devices.
Whilst this is recognisable commercial-off-the-shelf technology, every aspect of it – power, weight, size, operational efficiency and reliability – has been carefully modified to meet the strict requirements of spaceflight, and to withstand the harsh conditions of the launch and lunar landing, giving it the ability to continue to operate in the extreme conditions of space.
Nokia are trying to create a network for one of the most extreme environments imaginable and if they are able to achieve this, imagine what we can do within Earth-bound networks.