Nokia and NASA to build moon’s first cellular network

20 Oct 2020

Image: © designprojects/

Nokia Bell Labs’ 4G LTE communications technology will help NASA advance its mission to land more people on the moon.

NASA has announced that Nokia will build the first ever cellular network on the moon. The Finnish company was selected as a partner for the space agency’s Tipping Point programme, which funds technologies at the cutting edge of space exploration.

The network will use 4G LTE – the precursor to 5G – technology on the moon’s surface. Nokia said it will transform lunar communications by delivering “reliable, high data rates while containing power, size and cost”.

Improved communications infrastructure on the moon is an aspect of NASA’s Artemis programme, which aims to land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024 and to establish a sustainable presence on its surface by the end of the decade. NASA said that Nokia’s system could “support lunar surface communications at greater distances, increased speeds, and provide more reliability than current standards”.

The LTE tech will be developed by Nokia Bell Labs. Partnering with spaceflight firm Intuitive Machines, the research company will build and deploy an “ultra-compact, low-power, space-hardened, end-to-end solution” on the moon’s surface in late 2022. The system will self-configure after deployment.

Its purpose will be “critical communication capabilities” for transmitting data, Nokia said. This will include command and control functions, remote control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation and streaming high-definition video.

It will also give astronauts wireless connectivity for voice and video communications, biometric data exchange and more, which are vital for “long-term human presence” on the moon.

Nokia CTO and president at Nokia Bell Labs, Marcus Weldon, said the system has been built on the company’s “rich and successful history in space technologies, from pioneering satellite communication to discovering the cosmic microwave background radiation produced by the big bang”.

The technology has been specially designed to withstand the harsh conditions of launch and landing on the moon, Nokia said, and to function in the extreme conditions of space. The company added that it plans to further commercialise its LTE product and investigate how 5G can be applied to space-exploration technologies.

Lisa Ardill was careers editor at Silicon Republic until June 2021