2017.B.4.5. Commercial Partnerships for Exploration: Opportunities and Services for Lunar CubeSats


Jonathan Friend (1)
Susan Jason (1)
Chris Saunders (1)
Matthew Cosby (2)
Bernhard Hufenbach (3)

  1. SSTL, United Kingdom
  2. Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd, United Kingdom
  3. ESA, The Netherlands




Lunar, Communications, Navigation, CubeSat, Partnerships, Exploration


CubeSat technologies have made budget space missions accessible to a wide range of organisations for furthering education, science, outreach, technical and business objectives. Many emerging space nations use this format and over 40 nations have placed CubeSats into orbit.  The utility and ambition of CubeSats is rapidly increasing with a wide range of Lunar and Interplanetary CubeSat missions being proposed and developed for flight. However there are still several barriers for resource constrained missions; including affordable transportation opportunities to these more challenging destinations and communications with Earth.

In this presentation we describe our plans to provide transport to lunar and interplanetary orbits and subsequent data relay services forming ‘core infrastructure services’ to support Small Satellite and CubeSat exploration missions. The plans are being detailed under a ‘Commercial Partnership for Exploration’ pilot phase between ESA, SSTL and Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd. Our longer term vision is to provide commercial communications and navigation services to support sustained human presence on the Moon, Mars and beyond

The Lunar Communications Pathfinder is the first planned mission, comprising a ‘Mothership’ which delivers customer Small Satellite and CubeSat missions into Lunar Orbit. The Mothership then provides data relay services with Earth via a dedicated, commercial ground segment. The mission is financed by ticket pre-sales for the services with a range of incentives for early adopters of the system. There is significant international interest and growing commitment from industry, space agencies and commercial companies keen to be customers and pioneering partners for this mission, and its successors. We will present the current status and next steps towards project implementation, launch and service provision.


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