UK companies are developing new communication and navigation services needed for future missions to the Moon, thanks to funding from the UK Space Agency.
In what will be the world’s first commercial servicing of its kind, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), Inmarsat and MDA UK are among those who won contracts with the European Space Agency (ESA), worth just over £2m in total, to shape the infrastructure for future lunar exploration.
NASA plans to return to the Moon by 2024 and, working with ESA and other partners, intends to put a Gateway with living quarters for astronauts in lunar orbit. Reliable navigation and telecommunication capabilities are essential for these missions, and others like it, to succeed.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “People all over the world will be hugely excited by the upcoming missions to the Moon – and I’m proud that UK space companies are leading the way in making these a reality. Britain’s expertise in navigation and telecommunications is second to none and this first of its kind commercial service – spearheaded by some of the UK’s most innovative businesses – demonstrates our ambition for the UK to become a world-leading space nation.”
Under ESA’s Moonlight programme Guildford-based SSTL Lunar will lead a consortium, including Airbus in Portsmouth, Goonhilly Earth Station in Cornwall and Nottingham satellite navigation company GMV-NSL, to plan how they could provide data-relay services for communication and navigation around the Moon.