The European Space Agency talks about its Lunar Pathfinder mission to the Moon. This mission will carry an advanced future for satellite navigation and perform the first repair to locate the satellite’s position in lunar orbit. The European Space Agency says the test payload is a first step in its plan to expand Satnav’s reliable coverage and communication links for explorers around the moon and its surface during the decade.
Currently, Moon Pathfinder The mission is expected to launch by the end of 2023, bound for lunar orbit. The mission is a public-private comsat that will provide commercial data relay services for lunar missions while expanding operational boundaries for existing satellite signals. The European constellation Galileo is a group of navigation satellites intended to provide positioning, navigation and timing services to Earth.
Most of the navigation antennas on satellites in the constellation are aimed at Earth, which prevents them from being used from far away in space. However, European Space Agency officials say the patterns of the navigation signals also radiate sideways like light from a flashlight. Previous testing showed that the antenna’s “side lobes” could be used for positioning if suitable receivers were used.
In the past, the European Space Agency has demonstrated that positioning in higher orbit for navigation satellites is possible, and that an increasing number of satellites in geostationary orbit currently feature satnav receivers. The geostationary orbit is located at an altitude of 35,786 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, but the moon is ten times further away. The NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission obtained GPS signals to perform a fix and determine its orbit from 187,166 kilometers, roughly halfway to the moon.
This successful mission leads the European Space Agency to believe the Lunar Pathfinder will be a success because its GPS equipment has greatly improved sensitivity. Its receiver will use Galileo and GPS signals with a high gain satnav antenna. The receiver is expected to achieve a positioning accuracy of about 100 meters, which is much more accurate than traditional ground tracking.