European Space Agency (ESA) has selected Thales Alenia Space (TAS) for studying the future of the Lunar Radionavigation System. Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%) have been tasked to study the fundamental techniques, models and algorithms to build a Lunar Radionavigation System in the future. This contract, TAS explained, is part of ESA’s Moonlight initiative, which aims to develop reliable communications & navigation for next-generation institutional and private lunar exploration missions.
Thales Alenia Space release states that Moon exploration is “a strategic priority in the exploration of space, both for the ESA and for the industries and will make possible future manned missions to Mars”.
The contract, “concerns the definition of the concepts of orbit determination and time synchronization, of the lunar reference frames (selenodetic and temporal) and the signal modulation techniques for unidirectional and bidirectional services applicable to future radio navigation communications. Orbit determination and time synchronization are key factors in providing accurate positioning and time synchronization for future lunar users,” stated TAS.
The scientific community has been studying lunar navigation systems and, including, the algorithms to determine the orbit and time synchronising. The spin-offs have been used in terrestrial applications, but additional models and technological constraints will have to be considered for the moon. Thales Alenia Space along with Telespazio, a joint venture of Leonardo (67%) and Thales (33%), the French National Center for Space Studies – CNES (space geodesy office) and the Polytechnic of Turin will address this challenge.
The new study contract is complementary to the current activities of Phase A / B1 to explore the feasibility and definition of a Lunar Radionavigation System for the future. It is a part of the project for communication and navigation services, a contract led by Telespazio. TAS, together with Telespazio, is responsible for the definition and design of the entire system and the space segment design (elements in orbit around the Moon) and the lunar segment (elements on the surface of the Moon).