A lot has changed since humans first landed on the Moon. When the first space boot prints were left on the lunar surface, people were hooked to their television sets as grainy footage of the Apollo astronauts beamed its way down to Earth. More than 50 years later, with a planned return to the Moon, naturally the question comes up: Are astronauts going to be able to tweet from the lunar surface?
A space startup company is trying to make that happen. Aquarian Space recently announced receiving $650,000 in seed funding to develop a possible broadband internet connection that would link the Earth to the Moon, and maybe even Mars.
The company aims to deploy its first communications system to the Moon by 2024 in anticipation of increased demand from planned space missions to the Moon and beyond, both public and private ventures.
"In 2021 there were 13 landers, orbiters, and rovers on and around the moon," Kelly Larson, CEO of Aquarian Space, said in a statement released Thursday. "By 2030, we will have around 200, creating a multibillion-dollar lunar economy. But this can’t happen without solid, reliable Earth-to-moon communications."
The funding came from Draper Associates, a firm based in California. The Silicon Valley venture capitalists were also among the first to invest in private space company SpaceX.
How to get WiFi on the Moon
The plan is to deploy a high-speed communications network that would allow communication between lunar missions and Earth.
Aquarian is calling it Solnet, and it would use high-speed delivery satellite networks with speeds of 100 megabits per second. It’s no fiber optic, but it’ll do.
“Our Space-Based Relay Network allows you to send and receive high volumes of uninterrupted streaming data quickly and reliably, 24 /7,” Aquarian Space states on its website. “Governments and commercial space explorers are depending on innovative commercial telecom providers to fill this growing demand.”
After the first satellite goes up in 2024, another will follow in 2025 for coverage of the Moon’s South Pole. But the company was not specific in what type of satellite this type of broadband connection will require. Additionally, Aquarian Space has not yet secured a launch agreement for either satellites.
Meanwhile, European startup Plus Ultra Space Outposts has a launch agreement with Rocket Factory Augsburg for the final quarter of the year 2023 to deploy its own communications satellite towards the Moon.
SpaceX also has its own host of Starlink satellites providing broadband internet connections worldwide and is planning on testing out those satellites later this year with the all-civilian Polaris Dawn mission. The private human spaceflight mission will attempt to use the SpaceX satellites to communicate while in space.
Although Aquarian Space hasn’t revealed too many details on how it plans to make this happen, it stated that it was reviewing the technicalities with several companies participating in NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program.
CLPS will be sending up several payloads and equipment in support of NASA’s upcoming Artemis mission, which plans on landing humans on the Moon by 2026.
The return to the Moon
NASA is rolling out a grand return to the lunar surface.
This time, when humans return to the Moon, it plans on staying a while. NASA is planning on establishing a permanent lunar base on the Moon where astronauts can spend extended periods of time, and perhaps even launch to further destinations like Mars and beyond.
Ultimately the Artemis program wants to set up a sustainable presence of astronauts on the Moon, sending a crew up to the lunar surface once every year. Unlike Apollo, the Artemis mission is shooting for the Moon’s south pole.
The wheels are already in motion for Artemis, with a wet dress rehearsal for the Artemis I launch scheduled for April before the mission itself launches sometime in the summer.