Surrey Satellite to Build a Lunar Communications Relay21st Jun 2022
The 15th June signing of agreements between NASA and the ESA signed agreements on 15th June regarding the Lunar Pathfinder mission. The agreement directly affects British satellite maker Surrey Satellite in an unusual way.
Designed by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, Lunar Pathfinder is a single spacecraft that will provide commercial communication services to lunar orbiters and surface assets, including instruments and rovers. It will also provide scientific experiments and a lunar navigation services demonstrator. This is set to be the first dedicated relay spacecraft for lunar communications when it launches in 2024.
The Lunar Pathfinder will circle the moon in a highly elliptical, or elongated, orbit. It will weigh approximately 280 kilograms.
The United Kingdom enabled the mission through its subscription to the European Space Agency’s Exploration Programme. The ESA is an anchor customer for Lunar Pathfinder services, and it will work alongside NASA on the agreement.
NASA will obtain a launch service and ride to the moon for this spacecraft from a number of CLPS providers.
Speaking about securing the business of NASA and the ESA, Surrey Satellites tweeted the following:
SSTL is incredibly proud of counting both @esa and @NASA as first users of our Lunar Pathfinder services. Travelling with NASA to the Moon & connecting both ESA and NASA missions with Lunar telecoms has been our ambition for many years, & is now a reality!
Supporting the increasing demand for Lunar missions
The Lunar Pathfinder mission is supporting the increasing demand for Lunar missions and serving the scientific sector’s detailed analysis and study of the far side of the Moon. It is putting down the foundations to support sustainable exploration and science in the future.
The Moon’s far side, especially the South Pole Aitkin Basin, is an imperative area for human and robotic exploration in the future because of its mineral and chemical composition.
Lunar Pathfinder’s communications relay service will enable surface assets on the far side of the Moon, which does not have any line of sight to the Earth, thus ensuring there is a critical bridge between the lunar surface and terrestrial stations.