1. November 2019
ESA and NASA reaffirmed their interest in working with commercial service providers as well as international partners on missions to the Moon in a joint statement signed at the 70th annual International Astronautical Congress
The statement supports the ‘Lunar Pathfinder’ mission, ESA’s first Moon partnership with European industry, addressing communication and navigation needs for future lunar exploration. The ‘Lunar Pathfinder’ partnership helps lay the foundation for providing communications, navigation, and operations services around the Moon. Its communications relay service is intended to link the Earth and the lunar surface. “We are working together to make the commercial lunar economy a reality,” says David Parker ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration. “We want to act as an anchor customer and institutional broker for gaining access to non-European markets. ESA supports a competitive ecosystem of European space providers.” Commercialisation is gaining momentum in the space arena and both ESA and NASA confirmed their intention to work on lunar services with the UK Space Agency earlier this year. The move follows ESA’s collaboration agreement with UK partners Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd and Goonhilly Earth Station for support in lunar services, signed in April 2018. In the joint statement, NASA and ESA reiterated their interest to identify the elements of this potential cooperation and formalise an interagency agreement in the future. The two agencies have also committed to working together to supplement NASA’s own communications capabilities with those of ESA and its partners. NASA also confirmed its interest in having a variety of communication and navigation services to serve its robotic missions, including lunar surface activities, starting as early as end of 2022. The Lunar Pathfinder mission is currently in its pilot phase and has its first business review successfully completed.