Startup to Put Cellphone Tower on the Moon in late 2018


A startup called Part Time Scientists plans to launch LTE connectivity on the moon’s surface, enabling the company’s rovers to communicate with the team back on Earth using something other than direct Earth communications. This will save both time and money.

This process is scheduled to take place next year, 2018, and it’ll be made possible in part by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket named Alina. The German startup also has a deal in place with Vodafone for LTE base stations that will be going to the moon. This connectivity could be used both on the moon and to help get things to the moon.

Alina will make a soft landing onto the moon, at which point a pair of Audi Lunar Quatro rovers will disembark and make their way to the Apollo 17 site. “We are cooperating with Vodafone in order to provide LTE base stations on the moon,” Karsten Becker, who heads embedded electronics development and integration for the startup, told

Alina will serve as the base station, which will receive communications from the two rovers and then transmit the data back to the team on Earth. For now, the Part Time Scientists team may end up notable as the first private entity to get to the moon’s surface. This depends if another company doesn’t beat them to it.

Earlier on the Part Time Scientists itself withdrew from the Google Lunar X Prize earlier this year due to the time constraints of the competition. Becker said the company believes it will be the first private entity to reach the surface of the moon, suggesting that none of the Google Lunar X Prize participants are likely to meet the December 2017 deadline for the competition.

The Part Time Scientists also plans to conduct a second mission around 2020 that would carry LTE terminals designed to survive in the harsh lunar environment for extended periods of time. The company is cooperating with the European Space Agency, which has proposed a lunar village concept that would lead to permanent human presence on the surface of the moon.

Obviously, with the help of European Space Agency, the company anticipates getting necessary data that will pave the way to bringing permanent cellular technology to the moon. This will be a vital means for communication for future moon missions.

Falcon 9 is a family of two-stage-to-orbit launch vehicles, named for its use of nine first-stage engines, designed and manufactured by SpaceX. The Falcon 9 versions are Falcon 9 v1.0 (retired), Falcon 9 v1.1 (retired), and the current Falcon 9 Full Thrust, a partially-reusable launch system. Both stages are powered by rocket engines that burn liquid oxygen (LOX) and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellants. The first stage is designed to be reusable, while the second stage is not. It is recyclable rocket capable of returning to Earth from space.

The Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule combination won a Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract from NASA in 2008 to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. The first commercial resupply mission to the ISS launched in October 2012.

The Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP), sometimes referred to as Moon 2.0, is an inducement prize space competition organized by XPRIZE, and sponsored by Google. The challenge calls for privately funded spaceflight teams to be the first to land a privately funded robotic spacecraft on the Moon, travel 500 meters, and transmit back high-definition video and images.

In 2015, XPRIZE announced that the competition deadline would be extended to December 2017 if at least one team could secure a verified launch contract by 31 December 2015. Two teams secured such a launch contract, and the deadline was extended.

As of 2017, 5 teams remain in the competition. SpaceIL, Moon Express, Synergy Moon, Team Indus, and Team Hakuto, having secured verified launch contracts for 2017 (with Spaceflight Industries, Rocket Lab, Interorbital Systems, and a joint ISRO launch for the latter two teams). All teams must launch by the end of 2017.

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