Mobile phones to hit outer space

NASA takes communications to the next orbit

TODO alt text

Soon you won’t be able to escape mobile phones even if you disappeared into space. US space agency NASA and the British National Space Centre (BNSC) are to trial a mobile phone network on the moon.

NASA has plans to build a base at the south pole of the moon after 2020. And this location could provide the same level of mobile phone coverage as here on earth.

Thanks to the joint Nasa/BNSC MoonLite mission, astronauts and robots exploring the moon's surface would then be able to keep in touch via voice calls and text messages, Silicon.com reports.

Via satellite

Voice calls and data between the moon and earth would be sent via satellites circling the moon. Initially only one or two satellites would be involved but more could be added if needed. Data speeds would be around 3kbps for downloads and up to 2kbps for uploads.

The lunar mobile phone network will be similar to the "satellite phone network of the 1980s and 1990s on earth", director of space science at the BNSC, David Parker, told Silicon.

2012 launch

The BNSC is building the satellites for the trial, due to be launched after 2012, while NASA is developing the communications module.

A similar idea is already in practice in America’s deep south. SpaceData offers a service where air balloons equipped with Wi-Fi technology are launched into the air. The balloons – housed with a mini mobile phone mast each – soar 20 miles into the air, providing Wi-Fi and telecoms services to truckers and oil companies, the Wall Street Journal reports.

SpaceData’s wireless service aims to bring wireless internet to millions of Americans living in rural areas. Each balloon and ‘mobile mast’ can give wireless coverage for thousands of square miles below. The WSJ report also suggests that Google is considering buying the firm.