A few days ago, the Aquarian Space startup announced the start of work on a space broadband internet project. Then it was reported that the company received $650,000 and plans to launch its network in test mode by 2024. Such optimistic plans raise some doubts, but the company has already talked about some of the technological nuances of the project, so I would like to hope that all this is really feasible in a short time.
Funds for the space Internet were allocated by the venture fund Draper Associates. According to the announced plans, the network will first be launched on the Moon, to connect it with the Earth, and then, if everything goes well, Mars will also be connected to this network. The company speaks about the Red Planet with caution, realizing all the difficulties that can stand in the way of solving such a difficult task. But still believes that all this is technically feasible. Under the cut – details of the project, as well as a description of a similar project from Vint Cerf, the founder of the terrestrial Internet.
What’s at Aquarian Space?
The company talks about the simply colossal cost of space missions, which spend tens of billions of US dollars. And yet, many missions provide earth scientists with only a fraction of the information that could be obtained if broadband Internet was available in space and on nearby planets and satellites.
Aquarian Space plans to launch satellites into space that will build a reliable network infrastructure on the Moon to communicate with the Earth. This technology has already received its own name – Solnet. The network bandwidth is 100 megabits per second. Since the project is commercial and not purely scientific, many of the nuances are simply not disclosed. But it is known that company representatives are consulting with NASA technical specialists, as well as partners who are members of the NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program.
At one time, it was deployed for the joint work of the state, scientists and business to create lunar vehicles for studying the moon. The devices were planned to be used in future lunar missions, which are called Artemis.
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Representatives of the company believe that over time, the number of various kinds of devices on the surface of the moon and in orbit will increase. In 2021, there were 13, including both landers and orbiters with rovers. Well, in 10 years, if the activity of scientific organizations is the same as now, the number of lunar vehicles may increase, reaching several hundred. But data for hundreds of thousands of kilometers with a volume of many gigabytes cannot be transmitted if we do not start deploying the space network infrastructure already now.
By the way, it is also planned to be used for the early detection of asteroids threatening our planet. So by trying now, humanity will be able to secure itself in the near future.
The company’s CTO, John Rotondo, has over 40 years of experience in the satellite communications industry, so he understands the nuances and nuances of space broadband internet implementation better than most. Other representatives of the company are also associated with the space industry. In general, this company does not look like a dummy, so I would like to hope for the implementation of the plans.
Not Aquarian Space single
In addition to this company, NASA and partners are also developing their own broadband Internet network. The basic technologies, by the way, were invented and implemented by Vint Surf with the team.
The lunar network decided to call it LunaNet. It, according to the plan, will be a network of lunar satellites, surface towers and stationary repeaters. In addition to communication, satellites will act as GPS modules, accurately indicating the coordinates of various objects on the moon and the time. This is extremely necessary for the development of the natural satellite of the Earth. Initially, it is planned to send robots to the moon, and the more accurately they will navigate, the better.
By the way, the NASA project has much more technological details than Aquarian Space. In particular, it is known which main “modules” the project will include.
These are the three main types of services:
- Network services capable of transmitting data between nodes and providing confidentiality, integrity, and availability requirements.
- Location, navigation, and time services for orientation and speed, as well as data synchronization and distribution. These services can be used for search and rescue, ground navigation and location tracking. “Navigation allows missions to determine position and speed, plan the movement of objects, perform maneuvers, and also show time with accuracy that meets the requirements of the mission,” Goddard researchers said.
- Scientific services providing situational alerts and measurements. Services can not only conduct further research, but help predict solar flares that affect space weather and provide information on radiation levels.
The project also has three phases – the first falls on 2024, like Aquarian Space.
- 1 phase. Practical implementation is scheduled for 2024. Small automatic stations and manned vehicles are sent to the Moon to revisit the Moon by people. LunaNet will already be able to provide connectivity, albeit at a very basic level. It is planned that at least one satellite will provide communication with the far side of the Moon and the poles.
- 2 phase. 2024-2028 is an even more impressive stage. It is proposed to establish a small inhabited scientific station within four years. The number of such stations and automatic devices will increase. The network is gradually scaling up.
- 3 phase. After 2028. There will be more and more people and devices on the Moon. Testing of Martian missions will begin – landing, setting up a “camp”, etc. will be practiced under the conditions of the Moon. The network will reach its maximum capacity. By that time, the basic Martian network, MarsNet, will also appear. Mars, Moon and Earth will be connected by this network.
The more participants in the Internet space race, the better
Despite the fact that NASA seems to have everything “caught”, as can be seen from the published plans and details of the project, there are also problems. Firstly, NASA exists on taxpayers’ money, and all the agency’s projects are very expensive. So if something goes wrong, the organization and the lunar Internet project can simply be deprived of funding. Secondly, NASA is a very large and rather clumsy company, so to speak. If she undertakes the implementation of projects, then carefully, but their implementation is slow and not always successful. An example is the super-heavy launch vehicle SLS, which has consumed billions of dollars, the cost of its launch is estimated at a couple of billion, and the maintenance is even more. Here, Elon Musk is ahead of the rest of the planet SpaceX, which is clearly ahead of NASA.
Perhaps it is private business that will be the first to implement the lunar Internet project. Just because commercial companies are very closely following the development of the budget, and obviously will not throw in billions. So if Aquarian Space can offer an economy version of the network, then it will most likely be the first. Simply because it is devoid of bureaucratic sluggishness, like NASA. But, of course, it will not be possible to give accurate forecasts here, so time will tell.