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ESA seeks companies to help guide Moon missions

The European Space Agency (ESA) is looking for companies interested in helping create a constellation of lunar satellites to connect and guide missions to the Moon. Creating lasting telecommunications and navigation links with the Moon will enable sustainable space exploration for the hundreds of lunar missions that are due to launch within the next few decades, ESA stated.

The companies would provide telecommunications and navigation services to these lunar missions, under its Moonlight initiative.

ESA is completing two studies with two consortia of space companies based in Europe that assess the business case and the technical solutions for building and operating a constellation of lunar satellites. ESA is asking any space firms to indicate whether they would like to become involved in the ambitious project — or simply to develop lunar telecommunication and navigation technologies and products. The deadline is Oct. 28.

Artist’s rendering: NASA

Artist’s rendering: NASA

On Sept. 19, ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson signed a joint statement on lunar exploration cooperation at the International Astronautical Congress in Paris.

The lunar Gateway  will be an outpost in orbit around the Moon. It will serve as the staging point for both robotic and crewed exploration of the lunar south pole.

ESA’s European Service Modules will power all Artemis Orion spacecraft to the Moon and back. ESA will also provide refueling elements for Gateway and a communications module that will pave the way for Moonlight.

ESA has already initiated the Lunar Pathfinder project to provide initial communications services to early lunar missions, which will also help to prepare for the next stage with Moonlight. The Lunar Pathfinder will also include a navigation payload demonstrator, which will allow positioning in lunar orbit using GPS and Galileo systems for the first time, and is due to launch in 2025.

Space companies in Europe and Canada will be invited to tender for the initial Moonlight work in December.

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