The standard lunar reference clock needed for future communications

A great view of the moon during the recently concluded Artemis 1 mission.
picture: NASA

With the race back to the Moon heating up – and with plans for long-term human habitation – reliable communications are a key issue. With dozens of plans for experiments of varying sizes and scopes that need to communicate with each other and the Earth, the European Space Agency has opened a call to help build the required A group of communication services. called “moonlight”, order It will include a unified lunar clock.

Today, the European Space Agency has opened up Applications For private companies to help with the Moonlighting Program. The program will see the launch of three or four satellites to the Moon, to be deployed in its orbit to provide continuous communications and navigation coverage of the lunar surface and back to Earth. The satellite’s constellation orbits will be optimized to cover the lunar south pole, which has been chosen as the location where Astronauts mission Artemis will eventually Land.

“This will allow missions to maintain links to and from Earth, guiding them on their way around the Moon and on the surface, allowing them to focus on their core missions,” said Wael El Daly, system engineer at Moonlight. post esa. “But also, Moonlight will need a shared common date range in order to connect missions and facilitate site repairs.”

The satellite's orbits will be optimized for the lunar south pole, which is the expected landing site for future manned missions to the moon.

Moonlight needs a common lunar reference time in order to provide accurate position data to users on the lunar surface. In order to keep time on various lunar missions in the past, each mission has synchronized its clocks with those on Earth and used antennas in space to correct for drifts in time. The European Space Agency says that this solution will prove insufficient as Space agencies plan to send more humans and autonomous rovers to the moon than ever before. These different teams may need to communicate with each other, meet, or make joint observations, and a unified clock can smooth out issues in this regard.

said the European Space Agency in the post Discussions about lunar timekeeping began during a meeting at the European Space Agency’s European Space Research and Technology Center in the Netherlands last November. But talk of a unified timing of the moon came as part of a larger effort to agree on and establish NASA Luna Netwhich is a digital architectural network that can be used for communication and navigation on the moon.

Javier Ventura-Traveset, ESA Moonlight Navigation, said: “LunaNet is a framework of mutually agreed standards, protocols and interface requirements, allowing future lunar missions to work together, conceptually similar to what we did on Earth for common use. for GPS and Galileo”. boss. “Now, in the context of the Moon, we have the opportunity to agree on our interoperability approach from the start, before the systems are actually implemented.”

There is no set release date for Moonlight satellites, but the European Space Agency plans to use Moon Pathfinder In preparation for the moonlight initiative. pathfinder, It’s set to launch in 2025, and (eventually) Moonlight will help deliver astronauts on the lunar surface, like those who are part of NASA’s return to the moon.

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