PROSPECT: High data rate, adaptive, internetworked proximity communications for Space

Funding source: ESA - European Space Agency
Prime contractor: SnT
Team: Symeon Chatzinotas (PI), Houcine Chougrani (VPI), Jorge Querol, Sumit Kumar, Oltjon Kodheli, Abdelrahman Abdella, and Jan Thoemel.

Duration: 02/2022 - 07/2023


Interest in the moon has grown in recent years. Several countries (e.g. USA, Russia, Europe, etc), as well as private companies (e.g. SpaceX), have future plans for lunar missions. These missions are diversified and can cover a wide range of scenarios such as pinpoint landing, roving, lunar resource prospection, lunar tourism, etc. The concepts of operations for the considered scenario missions are shown in Figure 1. The orange lines are proximity and surface-to-surface communication paths, the red lines show communication paths between the lunar surface and orbiting vehicles, and the blue lines are communication paths from/to Earth. In this context, the main objective of this project is to design and demonstrate an efficient communication system for lunar missions connectivity based on existing terrestrial technologies. In particular, the project focuses on the Proximity Link type of communications, and in particular, to its relevant scenarios and architectures. Besides, Surface to Surface type of communications is also partially considered when addressing long-range communications between nodes.


Figure1: Potential communication scenarios in Mars and Lunar missions (proximity-links in orange color)


Project Objectives

The project will focus on the adaptation of the existing terrestrial systems to the expected communications scenarios in Lunar missions. It is expected to investigate existing terrestrial technologies and evaluate their suitability for the implementation in the form of a network card unit to be integrated into a series of target devices. In a nutshell, the objectives of the activity are:

  • To investigate the existing terrestrial technologies and evaluate their suitability for Moon exploration scenarios;
  • To identify the means to implement the technologies as well as all the modifications required to existing hardware and software/firmware;
  • To design a network card unit to be integrated into a series of target devices: perform the architectural design of the flight unit and the design and implementation of the relevant breadboard prototypes;
  • To demonstrate compliance to the requirements via review of design, analysis and test on the breadboard prototypes.

In particular, the project should first focus on the requirements definition depending on the selected scenarios, communications architectures as well as conditions and characteristics of the lunar environments. Through this important system parameters, requirements and KPIs are defined like the required data rate, degree of reliability, required Size, Weight and Power (SWAP), channel conditions and many others. The objective of this step is to facilitate the selection of the best-fit terrestrial technology for lunar proximity communications scenarios. Second, the activity will identify the candidate standards and technologies for Lunar communication, perform trade-offs and necessary adaptation if exist and propose a detailed architecture of the flight network card unit and the breadboards. The blocks and interfaces forming the aforementioned architecture should also be identified and defined. Moreover, the space-qualification aspects of breadboards should be assessed. Last but not least, the breadboards should be implemented, tested, and validated via pre-defined Verification and Validation Plan.


Project team:


RSA Group