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Path set for commercial communications around the Moon

on 21 December 2021

ESA confirmed a contract signature for Lunar Pathfinder satellite launching in 2024 that will provide communications services around the Moon.

A whole suite of lunar exploration missions is on the horizon, many of which have ESA involvement. These include NASA’s Artemis programme, commercial lunar landers, Russia’s Luna 25 and 27 landers and the future European Large Lunar Lander (EL3).

Lunar Pathfinder is a first step towards ESA’s ambitious Moonlight vision to create a network of communications and data relay satellites serving users worldwide. Such satellites could also provide navigation data for lunar exploration, just as today we navigate using Galileo and GPS on Earth.

The far side and polar regions of the Moon are a particular area of interest to space agencies as a potential source of resources for water, fuel and oxygen. A communications relay satellite such as Lunar Pathfinder is necessary to ensure continuous contact for both robots and humans.

The Lunar Pathfinder mission also hosts two separate ESA experiments, the first testing the possibility of using existing navigation satellites for positioning on the Moon and the second a space weather monitor to understand radiation levels around the Moon – important for human explorers.

More details here

Image credit: SSTL