Speaking to the European Space Agency’s human spaceflight directorate’s head of strategy and architecture office, Bernhard Hufenbach today (21 April) he spoke enthusiastically of commercial services for a lunar outpost
caption: will this NASA concept of a lunar comms and GPS spacecraft have an Inmarsat or Iridium logo in the future?
The use of commercial services for exploration seems to be gaining ground and we might see it recommended as part of a report to be produced by NASA and ESA in mid-May. It will summarise their progress thus far in finding common ground between their respective architectures for the Moon, and beyond
NASA has certainly been thinking about how it can extend its forays into the commercial world to the wider exploration initiative and the British National Space Centre has said it has been an advocate of commercial services in its bilateral talks with the US space agencyHufenbach spoke of initial commercial services focusing on broadband communications between the Moon and the Earth with the possible use of optical, i.e. laser, systems for sending data back and forth
Following that he envisaged wider commercial services that could encompass surface activities, I am guessing habitats. But he didn’t rule out, either, in the much longer term, commercial crew transportation
However NASA has already started work on its own concept for a lunar communications and positioning system satellite and constellation
So Hufenbach and his counterparts in the other space agencies might find some resistance from some quarters of NASA and he did admit that for such services to be purchased they would need to be bought collectively by the international partners involved in a lunar outpost; whom I am guessing will be NASA, Canada, ESA (with the UK perhaps providing some robotics), Japan’s JAXA, Russia’s Federal Space Agency aka Roskosmos, the Indian Space Research Organisation, and maybe the Ukranians and the Brazilians but probably not China
How that collective purchase of commercial services would be agreed through another framework agreement is anyone’s guess? I think a “geographical return” approach would be a disaster, personally