Found a way to organize GPS navigation on the Moon

Ground-based GPS navigation makes it simple to navigate the terrain and ensures traffic safety. On the Moon, however, such a beneficial location mechanism is not available, making terrain orientation more challenging. As a result, British experts are working on a technology that will allow GPS navigation to be used on the Moon. The device, known as NaviMoon, is regarded as a milestone in lunar navigation. It was manufactured for the European Space Agency by the Swiss company Space PNT (ESA). The lunar positioning system will be launched for the first time in 2024.

GPS navigation on the Moon

It's no easy task to get GPS navigation to work on the Moon. Currently, the US GPS satellite constellation includes 31 satellites circling the Earth at an altitude of 20,180 kilometers, whereas the European Galileo satellite network has 22 satellites orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 23,222 kilometers. The Moon, on the other hand, is 385,000 kilometers away from Earth on average. Furthermore, the GPS and Galileo navigation satellites are programmed to send their signals to Earth. Everything else that reaches the Moon is 1000 times weaker than the Earth's, and is really a "side effect."

“Today, to determine the position of the spacecraft on the Moon, we use parabolic antennas installed on Earth. But since the Earth rotates, a lot of stations are needed, as well as some rather expensive technology on satellites. Using a simple GPS receiver will make the process much cheaper,” says Space PNT's CEO and co-founder.

How NaviMoon works

Prototype of the NaviMoon receiver that will make GPS work on the Moon.

However engineers are convinced that NaviMoon will be able to detect the position of a satellite circling the Moon to within 100 meters of accuracy. It's not ideal, but it's a lot better than the alternatives. Engineers can realistically extend GPS coverage to the Moon's surface with the NaviMoon system. They first determine the satellite's position using the NaviMoon system, and then divert the signals to the rovers and men on the surface. According to Botteron, four or five of these satellites can cover the entire Moon, including the dark side.

The British company Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL), which is producing the Lunar Pathfinder mission, has received an engineering model of the NaviMoon receiver from Space PNT. The spaceship will carry a number of telecommunications equipment that SSTL intends to sell to space agencies and commercial enterprises planning to operate vehicles on the Moon's surface.

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