5G on the Moon? NASA backs Nokia’s space communication network starting with LTE

NASA recently unveiled the winners of its fifth round of Tipping Point technology innovators. Most funding goes toward demonstrating ways to refuel vehicles in space for sending heavier payloads to the Moon. One experiment being funded by NASA, however, is focused on bringing an essential Earth experience to space.

Bell Labs, Nokia’s research arm, will be awarded $14.1 million to develop and deploy a lunar LTE communication system:

Inspired by terrestrial technology, Nokia proposes to deploy the first LTE/4G communications system in space. The system could support lunar surface communications at greater distances, increased speeds, and provide more reliability than current standards.

Nokia says that the initial 4G/LTE technology it has developed for lunar deployment will later evolve to include 5G technologies — just in time for the iPhone 12 to make 5G mainstream on Earth.

“The mission-critical LTE network we have developed has been specially designed to withstand the extreme temperature, radiation, and vacuum conditions of space, as well as the sizable vibrational impact during launch and landing on the lunar surface,” explains Nokia.

“This fully integrated cellular network meets the stringent size, weight, and power constraints of space payloads in the smallest possible form factor.”

NASA plans to send the first woman and next man to the Moon as soon as 2024 with the Artemis program. NASA’s Tipping Point initiative seeks out proposals from private companies that advance space technology. Recipients only receive the full award if specific milestones are met during a set timeline.

Nokia’s space LTE will be a fun experiment to track as it progresses. No word yet on how much to expect roaming charges from Earth to cost.

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