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UK Firm SSTL Approved For Data-Relay Spacecraft For Moon



For all lunar missions, including orbiters and near side surface assets, which could manage with direct to Earth communication, there is an additional economical and technical benefit to using the proximity data-relay service. Due to the proximity of the Lunar Pathfinder spacecraft, user assets could achieve higher data-rates with a lower performance, lower mass and lower cost communication module on-board.




UK Firm SSTL Approved For Data-Relay Spacecraft For Moon



For all lunar missions, including orbiters and near side surface assets, which could manage with direct to Earth communication (DTE), there is an additional economical and technical benefit to using the proximity data-relay service. Due to the proximity of the Lunar Pathfinder spacecraft, user assets could achieve higher data-rates with a lower performance, lower mass and lower cost communication module on-board, compared with the equipment needed for DTE communication.


Lunar Pathfinder, which will weigh about 620 pounds (280 kilograms), will circle the moon in an elongated, or highly elliptical, orbit. The orbit will allow the spacecraft to loiter over the polar regions and far side of the moon, providing extended communications coverage for missions out of reach of antennas on Earth.


ESA is working with NASA on an agreement where NASA would launch and deliver the Lunar Pathfinder spacecraft into its operational lunar orbit in exchange for data-relay services for their own missions, making NASA one of the first users of Lunar Pathfinder services.


"Today, to determine the position of a spacecraft on the moon we use parabolic antennas that are on Earth," Cyril Botteron, the CEO and co-founder of Space PNT, told Space.com. "But as Earth rotates, you need many stations, and also some rather expensive technologies on the satellites. Using a simple GPS receiver will make the process much cheaper."


As for going beyond the ISS, while ESA has signed contracts for the first three service modules for Orion, the agency is working on a deal with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) ( -hub/latest-news/2020/sstl-kicks-off-lunar-pathfinder-communications-mis) to buy services from the Lunar data-relay spacecraft, Lunar Pathfinder. The services may also support some of NASA's robotic missions, although Parker noted that the pressure to launch by the end of 2022 had eased a little thanks to NASA's VIPER trundlebot slipping into 2023.


Forres-based company Moonspike Ltd was founded in 2015 and was first planning to raise funds for a private spacecraft mission to the moon. A year later, it rebranded as Orbital Express Launch Ltd and shifted its focus to offering commercial nano- and micro-satellite launch services.


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