Strengthens Artemis with communication and navigation interoperability

LunaNet: Empowering Artemis with communication and navigation interoperability

Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

With Artemis, NASA will establish a long-term presence on the Moon and open more of the moon’s surface for exploration than ever before. This growth in lunar activity will require new, more robust communication, navigation and networking features. NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program has developed the LunaNet architecture to meet these needs.

LunaNet will leverage innovative networking techniques, standards and an expandable framework to rapidly expand the networking capabilities of the Moon. This framework allows industry, academia, and international partners to build and operate LunaNet nodes with NASA. These nodes will offer missions four different services: networking, navigation, detection and information, and radio / optical science services.


Typically, when missions start in space, their down-to-earth communication depends on predetermined connections with either a space relay or a ground-based antenna. With multiple missions traveling to the moon, reliance on predetermined links can limit communication capabilities and efficiency. LunaNet offers a networking method similar to the Internet on Earth, where users maintain connections to the larger network and do not need to schedule data transfer in advance.

The core network framework for LunaNet is Delay / Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN), which ensures that data flows smoothly through the network and reaches its final destination despite potential signal interference. In the event of an interruption between two LunaNet nodes, DTN nodes allow data to be stored until the path becomes clear.


For lunar navigation, the LunaNet method offers operational independence of data processing on Earth, while maintaining high precision. The architecture will give missions access to key metrics needed for onboarding and control of system operations or surface positioning. Missions using LunaNet navigation services would have everything they need for autonomous navigation on the Moon, whether on the surface or in orbit.

“LunaNet will provide a new paradigm for ground-independent navigation, ensuring that crew and robot missions can quickly and accurately determine their locations and pass it on to their planning systems,” said Cheryl Gramling, Associate Head of Technology at Mission Engineering and Systems Analysis Division .

LunaNet overview video. Credit: NASA / Reese Patillo

Registration and information

LunaNet registration and information services provide alerts and other critical information to users. This and similar possibilities will greatly increase the situational awareness of astronauts, rovers and other assets on the lunar surface.

As an example, LunaNet will use space weather instruments that detect potentially dangerous solar activity to alert users directly, rather than waiting for direction from network managers on Earth. These warnings are similar to those people get on their smartphones in dangerous weather.

LunaNet detection and information services will also include a lunar search and rescue capability or LunaSAR. LunaSAR leverages the expertise of NASA’s Search and Rescue Office, which has long developed terrestrial search and rescue technologies.

“Astronauts’ safety and well-being are key concerns for the Artemis missions,” said Cody Kelly, mission and national affairs chief of Search and Rescue. “Using LunaNet’s navigation services, LunaSAR will provide location data for NASA’s emergency signals in the event of an accident.”

Science services

LunaNet science services enable nodes to perform measurements for the benefit of Earth scientists using their radio and infrared optical communications connections. The network of nodes could provide opportunities for baseline observations of the Moon, frequent measurements that provide a comprehensive study of the Moon’s environment over time. In addition, the location of nodes will allow for regional or global observation of the Moon, giving scientists access to lunar data across large spatial scales.

LunaNet antennas can also be used in applications such as radio astronomy, where antennas look deep into space and look for radio emissions from distant celestial bodies. These opportunities will provide researchers with a new platform to test new theories of space science and advance scientific knowledge.

LunaNet: Empowering Artemis with communication and navigation interoperability

LunaNet DTN concept graphics. Credit: NASA / Reese Patillo

Lunanet interoperability specifications

Last month, the LunaNet team published draft interoperability specifications as a basis for technical discussions between industry and experts from around the world. The goal is a set of standards that can enable an open, evolving, cooperative lunar communication and navigation architecture.

“Artemis is a collaboration that depends on academia, commercial airlines and the international community. LunaNet is no different,” said Jaime Esper, who helped lead the development of the draft interoperability specifications. “Together, we hope to define a robust architecture that can meet the needs and wants of the widest possible set of user missions and service providers.”

Lunanet background

LunaNet began its life at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland with a cross-functional team of network, navigation, science and systems engineering experts building on past NASA and international activities. From this basis, experts across the Agency came together to refine the proposal and develop draft interoperability standards, and LunaNet is now headed out of the Space Communications and Navigation Program Office (SCaN).

“LunaNet is an exciting opportunity for NASA’s communications and navigation team and the scientific and exploration community in general,” said Dave Israel, communications architect at Goddard. “Together, we are refining a groundbreaking approach that will meet the needs of lunar missions for many decades to come.”

NASA engineers analyze navigation needs for Artemis lunar emissions

Provided by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Citation: LunaNet: Empowering Artemis with communication and navigation interoperability (2021, October 7) retrieved October 8, 2021 from

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