Lockheed takes one giant leap (of faith) with Moon comms

US aerospace and defence giant Lockheed Martin has launched a new subsidiary to provide communications services on the Moon.

Mary Lennighan

March 31, 2023

3 Min Read
lockheed martin crescent logo

US aerospace and defence giant Lockheed Martin has launched a new subsidiary to provide communications services on the Moon.

Convinced this will be a growing area of need in the years to come, the company this week presented Crescent Space, an outfit whose remit is to provide infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) for lunar missions.

It might seem like something of a niche area – and indeed it is, when you consider that no human has set foot on the Moon in more than 50 years, and that all Moon landings to date took place in less than three and a half years from 1969 to 1972 – but Lockheed Martin is planning for the future.

“With momentum gaining around humanity’s return to the Moon, this is an immediate area of opportunity for Crescent,” Lockheed Martin said.

“Crescent is well positioned to serve the upcoming wave of lunar science and exploration missions, including NASA’s crewed Artemis moon landings,” the new unit’s chief executive Joe Landon added. Landon has been with Lockheed Martin for around four and a half years.

Through Artemis, NASA plans to build a base camp on the Moon and a Gateway spaceship that will remain in orbit for a decade, all for the purpose of scientific research. The unmanned Artemis 1 craft flew around the Moon at the back end of last year, but it will be Artemis 3 that actually lands astronauts on its surface and we have no firm launch date for that mission yet.

There are a number of other Moon missions planned in the near future, from countries like India, China and Russia, as well as private companies including SpaceX. China and Russia are also working on a Moon base of their own to rival NASA’s, but that’s not due to get off the ground for a decade or so.

“As humankind expands its presence beyond low-Earth orbit, one of the first key challenges is uninterrupted communications between Earth, the Moon, and the growing number of lunar missions, Lockheed Martin said. “To do this seamlessly – especially on the far side of the Moon – customers need a network that helps them talk over vast distances, like what cell towers enable here on Earth.”

We’ll resist the temptation to paint a picture of a handful of astronauts using massive amounts of data to exchange cat videos and whatever else keeps them occupied on those long, lonely space missions.

Because joking aside, although Crescent Space’s addressable market is neither huge nor immediate, there is an opportunity here, albeit one that comes with a sizeable dose of risk. Space-based communication has always been for those with deep pockets.

Crescent Space plans to launch an Earth-to-Moon communications and navigation network that it dubs Parsec (a Parsec being an astronomical unit of distance equivalent to 3.26 light years). Parsec will use a constellation of small lunar satellites that will provide a continuous connection between Earth, and the people and assets both in lunar orbit and on the surface of the Moon. It will provide communications as well as positioning, timing and navigation services for lunar missions.

The first nodes will launch in 2025 and will be operated by Crescent, while Lockheed Martin will produce and deliver the Parsec spacecraft.

Assuming all goes to plan, that should be in plenty of time to serve the Artemis base and any other similar missions that actually get off the ground, presuming those involved broker deals with Crescent. It probably has a decent shot at getting the NASA gig, but it’s wise to assume that China, for example, will use its own comms.

Either way, Lockheed Martin is getting started on its Moon talking at the right time.


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About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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