European Space Agency plans to bring GPS and Skype to the moon with satellites

The first such satellite, called “Lunar Pathfinder,” will be operational in 2024.

Space Moon Satellites
Space Moon Satellites

The European Space Agency presented a vision Thursday to put satellites in orbit around the moon that would facilitate future missions to Earths closest neighbour.

The plan, dubbed "Moonlight," would see ESA offer communications and navigation services to any country that wants to carry out lunar exploration missions.

By relying services provided from lunar orbit, space agencies would be able to design their moon landers without the need for cumbersome communications and navigation devices on board. This would free up space to carry other cargo, making each launch more cost-effective, said Paul Verhoef, ESA’s director of navigation.

The project builds on one of the agency's strengths: launching satellites to provide services to third parties. ESA has a fleet of observation satellites in orbit around Earth that supply weather, climate and other data to public and commercial companies.

It also has a constellation of navigation satellites, known as Galileo, that provide highly accurate global positioning data to rival the U.S.-based GPS system.

But it also highlights the European agency's weakness: unlike the United States, China or India ESA lacks any ambitious moon exploration programs of its own. Instead, ESA is hoping to partner with NASA to build a "lunar gateway" that would be a staging post for future moon missions.

The proposal outlined by ESA on Thursday will see two international consortiums devise ways for building a reliable and dedicated lunar communications and navigation service.

The first such satellite, called "Lunar Pathfinder," will be operational in 2024.

David Parker ESA's director of human and robotic exploration, said the agency's member states would be given a formal proposal for a constellation next year.

"If approved, the project could start full steam ahead at the beginning of 2023 to ensure it’s operational within four or five years,” he said.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in