Enhanced Communication Opportunity for NASA at the Moon

23 October 2020

Lunar Trailblazer also presented the details of an Enhanced Communication Opportunity on Tuesday at its PDR to NASA stakeholders. One key for the NASA lunar program is communications relay to support data return and commanding for far-side and polar landed missions. Right now, these are not possible. Lunar Trailblazer presented a plan to add an S-band radio for relay to lunar landers (up to 5 Mbps) and upgrade its X-band link to Earth to 5-8 Mbps (from current 256 kbps). Lunar Trailblazer would then be able to serve as the comm relay for CLPS landers, rovers, and human landers with real-time and store-and-forward capability. While not part of Lunar Trailblazer’s Baseline mission, the ~$8M cost to add to lunar comm relay capability would be enabling to NASA plans to explore the far-side and poles. As an added benefit, the comm relay would also increase Lunar Trailblazer science by 70x, speeding the primary science mission and allowing Trailblazer to make fully global maps of water, composition, and thermophysical properties. Next steps are for engagement with NASA HQ stakeholders to decide, by December, if NASA wishes to pursue the opportunity.