Going to the moon was the first step. Staying there is the next ambition.
ESA is a key partner in NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to get people back to the Moon by the end of the decade. Dozens of other public and private international missions are setting their sights on the lunar surface in the years to come.
But to achieve a permanent and sustainable presence on the Moon, reliable and autonomous lunar communication and navigation services are necessary.
This is why ESA is working with its industrial partners on the Moonlight initiative, to become the first commercial provider of off-planet telecommunications and satellite navigation.
After their launch, three or four satellites will be transported into lunar orbit by a space tug and deployed one by one, to form a constellation of lunar satellites. The number and specifications of these satellites are currently being defined.
The constellation’s orbits are optimized to cover the lunar south pole, whose sustained sunlight and polar ice make it the focus of upcoming missions.
Moonlight will provide sufficient data capabilities to serve these planned and future missions, with a navigation service that enables accurate real-time positioning for all lunar missions.