Product/Service - Lunar Pathfinder
- Space Utilities
- In-Space Communications Relay
- First launch
The Lunar Pathfinder spacecraft is designed to provide affordable communications services to lunar missions via S-band and UHF links to lunar assets on the surface and in orbit around the Moon, and an X-band link to Earth.
As early as Q4 2022, the 280 kg Lunar Pathfinder spacecraft will be a mission enabler for polar and far-side missions, which, without direct line of sight of the Earth, would otherwise have to procure their own communications relay spacecraft. Lunar Pathfinder is a more cost effective alternative to Direct-to-Earth solutions and a credible alternative to institutional deep-space ground stations, offering orbiters and near-side missions a better availability, enhanced safety and improved data-rate.
To support booming demand from Lunar missions and a clear goal in the scientific community to undertake detailed study and analysis of the Aitken Basin, Lunar Pathfinder intends to operate in a stable elliptical orbit to provide long duration visibility of the Southern Lunar Hemisphere each day, with maximum opportunities for the transmission and reception of data between Earth and the lunar surface.
NASA’s Artemis programme also calls for “landing the first American woman and next American man at the South Pole of the Moon by 2024, followed by a sustained presence on and around the Moon by 2028” and Lunar Pathfinder is accordingly working towards a launch in Q4 2022 to support early NASA missions.
In parallel to the Lunar Pathfinder mission SSTL has been working on future plans for a constellation of spacecraft around the Moon, capable of providing enhanced communications, as well as navigation services for the Lunar market as it grows from exploration to commercial exploitation and even tourism.
Lunar Pathfinder is due to operate in an Elliptical Lunar Frozen Orbit (ELFO) for an operational lifetime of 8 years. The spacecraft can operate 2 simultaneous channels of communication with lunar assets: 1 in S-band and 1 in UHF. Performance, such as coverage and data-rate, depend both on the relative position of the user asset to Pathfinder at the moment of the connection, as well as the capabilities of the communication module onboard the user asset. Once safely retrieved onboard Lunar Pathfinder, communications are relayed back to Earth ground stations in X-band.
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