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4G on the Moon as Nokia Bags Sh1.5 Billion NASA Tender

Finnish equipment manufacturer NOKIA has been tabbed by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to deploy an “ultra-compact, low-power, space-hardened” wireless 4G network on the Moon.

Nokia’s network equipment will be installed remotely on the moon’s surface using a lunar hopper built by Intuitive Machines in late 2022. The 4G equipment can be updated to a super-fast 5G network in the future, Nokia said.

“The network will self-configure upon deployment,” the firm said in a statement, adding that the wireless technology will allow for “vital command and control functions, remote control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation and streaming of high definition video.”

According to a report published by The Guardian, Nokia was picked to lead the project worth $14.1 million (Sh1.5 billion) that, according to NASA will be key to plans to establish a long-term human presence on the moon by 2030.

The system could support lunar surface communications at greater distances, increased speeds and provide more reliability than current standards,” NASA noted in its contract award announcement.


Nasa’s Artemis programme which aims to send the first woman, and next man, to the moon by 2024. (Photo/NASA)

The Sh1.5 Billion contract, awarded to Nokia’s US subsidiary, is part of Nasa’s Artemis programme which aims to send the first woman, and next man, to the moon by 2024.

This is part of NASA’s “tipping point” selections, worth $370 million (Sh40 billion) in efforts to advance research and development for space exploration.

According to Nokia, which will lead the project with its partner Intuitive Machines, the network will self-configure upon deployment and establish the first LTE communications system on the Moon.

“Leveraging our rich and successful history in space technologies, from pioneering satellite communication to discovering the cosmic microwave background radiation produced by the Big Bang, we are now building the first-ever cellular communications network on the Moon. Reliable, resilient and high-capacity communications networks will be key to supporting sustainable human presence on the lunar surface. By building the first high-performance wireless network solution on the Moon, Nokia Bell Labs is once again planting the flag for pioneering innovation beyond the conventional limits.” Marcus Weldon, CTO at Nokia and Nokia Bell Labs President said.

In a Twitter thread, Nokia’s research arm, Bell Labs, said that the company intends for the network to support the wireless operation of lunar rovers and navigation, as well as streaming video.

This is not Nokia’s first attempt at setting up the Lunar LTE network, In 2018, Nokia was first commissioned to undertake the project with PTScientists, a German space company, and Vodafone UK to launch an LTE network at the site of the Apollo 17 landing but the project never took off.

Last week, NASA announced last week it would distribute $370m to 14 companies to supply “Tipping Point” technologies for its mission, which include robotics and new methods of harvesting the resources required for living on the moon, such as oxygen and energy sources.

The bulk of the funding went to companies researching cryogenic propellants, freezing liquids used to fuel spacecraft. Among them, Elon Musk’s SpaceX received $53.2m for a demonstration of the transferring of ten metric tons of liquid oxygen between tanks on a starship vehicle, Nasa said.

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