Communicating with the Moon is Getting Easier
Human interest in developing long-term settlements in space is increasing exponentially. Stations in low Earth orbit (LEO) have enabled people to live and work in space for the past several decades. With LEO habitation secure, the next avenue for continuing human presence in space comes down to one place—the Moon.
One of the challenges of seeking to establish a permanent outpost on the Moon is how to provide communications to support those on the lunar surface. Space stations in LEO rely on Earth-based communications and navigations capabilities, but outposts and other assets on the Moon cannot rely on the same capabilities because of the vast distances and line-of-sight challenges to places like the far side of the Moon.
Lockheed Martin’s Parsec™ service responds to this challenge.
Let's Get Connected
The Parsec™ service uses a system of small satellites working in unison to allow for seamless connection between the Earth and the people and assets on the lunar surface. These satellites act as an orbiting relay network that provides complete coverage and support to meet the needs of lunar missions.
The communication link between lunar assets and the Earth is completely controlled by the network to allow mission planners to focus on operations. Mission planners can have confidence that the network’s end-to-end communication services will deliver their data back to Earth securely and efficiently.
Let's Get Back to Base
Astronauts and other lunar resources can rely on the network’s navigation capabilities to keep missions on target and even support them when courses need to change. The interoperable nodes connected to the network act as a lunar positioning system, informing those on the ground of their exact location, hidden hazards and even how to get back to base.
Knowing before going is critical to the safety of crewed missions and future astronauts can rest easy as the service will be in place before they take their first steps on the Moon. Lockheed Martin anticipates that the first communication nodes will be in place by 2024 with additional nodes being built out over the following years.
Let's Get Technical
The technologies to cultivate the Parsec™ service are already in place:
- Curio™ SmallSat bus, currently being built for Janus and Lunar Trailblazer, enables a modular and capable platform for lunar missions.
- The SmartSat™ software framework enables on-orbit reconfigurability and mission flexibility.
- The COMPASS/Horizon™ products allow for automated mission planning and satellite command and control.
- The HiveStar™ mesh network provides integrated contact management and enables the distribution of tasks across the network without human intervention.
Supporting networks for deep space missions must grow along with humankind’s aspirations to become an interplanetary species. Success in the next step in lunar exploration depends on finding our way and staying connected. As the Parsec™ service expands, it will broaden to include several other business models and approaches.