NASA will test GPS on the moon for the first time

As part of the Artemis program, NASA, in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency (ASI), will test for the first time a new lunar navigation system that uses signals from the Earth’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), but not on the moon.

Use GPS and Galileo signals

GNSS is a constellation of artificial satellites based on a set of components that can be delivered to a user via a portable receiver with its location. The most famous of these, GPS, is operated by the US space force. Europe has its own GNSS, Galileo. NASA and ISA want to harness the power of these two systems for their missions.

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Called the LuGRE (Lunar GNSS Receiver Experiment), it will try to calculate the first position marker when traveling to the lunar surface along the moon. LUGRE will receive signals from GPS and Galileo while traveling to the moon. The receiver will also conduct tests on orbits at different heights and around the moon.

After landing on the Blue Ghost Lander made by Firefly Aerospace and landing on the moon, LUGRE will deploy its antenna and begin collecting 12 days of data with the potential to increase mission activity. NASA and ASI will process and analyze data transmitted to Earth, then share the results with the public, the US space agency said in a statement.

Push the boundaries A

In this case, we are pushing the boundaries of GNSS, that is, expanding the scope of systems designed to serve land, aeronautical and marine users to include the growing space sector. This will significantly improve the accuracy and resilience of what was available during the Apollo mission and allow for more flexible equipment and operational conditions. JJ Miller, deputy director of policy and strategic communications at NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCAN) program, said.

In fact, LuGRE is part of an ongoing effort to expand the capabilities of high-altitude GNSS, a system that relies on space missions for long-term navigation and timekeeping. In recent years, the range of the system has been expanded to include missions at altitudes between 2,896 km and 35,405 km. In 2016, NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission used GPS at a record altitude of 70,000 km above the Earth.

LuGRE’s goal is to build an operational lunar GNSS system for future missions to our satellites. The test is also an important step toward building Lunanet, an architecture that will integrate cooperative networks into uninterrupted lunar communications and navigation services, NASA says.

Gateway moon base artist impression.

The permanent moon base of the future, the impression of the artist of Lunar Gateway. It will be constantly occupied by astronauts. Photo: NASA Johnson / Flickr

A mission of the Artemis program

LuGRE is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services Initiative Scientific instruments, equipment and spacecraft were later transported to the surface of the moon to prepare for future human exploration. The Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) mission, which aims to study water ice under a hole at the moon’s south pole due to a rover, is also part of it.

These different missions are all part of NASA’s huge Artemis program. The goal is to bring humans back to the moon and build a permanent base there called the Lunar Gateway. Thus, our satellites will allow us to prepare missions in more distant space, for example up to Mars. Another essential component of the Artemis, the NASA SLS rocket encountered some difficulties and will not make its first flight until August.

The Blue Ghost Craft, which will take LuGRE to the moon, will be powered by a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle. It is scheduled to take off in 2024 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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