NASA will arrange for the launch of Lunar Pathfinder through its Commercial Lunar Payload Services programme and gain access to communications services from the spacecraft.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and ESA (European Space Agency) Director-General Josef Aschbacher have signed two agreements at the ESA Council meeting in Noordwijk, Netherlands, further advancing the space agencies’ cooperation on Earth science and Artemis missions.
Speaking about the agreement, Nelson said: “With these two agreements, NASA and ESA are strengthening the relationship on two of our agencies’ primary mission areas: Artemis and Earth science. ESA’s Lunar Pathfinder mission is critical to advancing the communications infrastructure needed at the Moon for a long-term human presence. And with the United States and Europe providing more than 70% of the world’s Earth science data, that agreement will set the standard for future international collaboration at a time when we need global collaboration most to tackle the climate crisis.”
Aschbacher added: “When it comes to global challenges such as the climate crisis, we each have our role to play, but it’s only by joining forces that we can achieve more. With leadership on both sides of the Atlantic more committed to tackle this than ever, ESA and NASA have a historic chance to further make space an integral part of the solution when it comes to climate change mitigation.”
UK Space Agency Chief Executive Paul Bate stated: “I am delighted to see this next step in the cooperation between ESA, NASA and UK industry. Space is an essential growth area of the UK economy, and it is exciting to see this now extending even to the Moon!”
The Earth science agreement builds on the joint statement of intent Nelson and Aschbacher signed in July 2021. The agreement outlines how the agencies will collaborate to ensure continuity of Earth observations; advance understanding of the Earth System, climate change and application of that knowledge; and collaborate on an open data policy that promotes open sharing of data, information, and knowledge within the scientific community and the wider public.
The Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation on the Lunar Pathfinder mission and access to lunar communication services is part of an overall lunar communications architecture. NASA is planning to arrange for the delivery of ESA’s Lunar Pathfinder spacecraft to lunar orbit via a Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) delivery, and the Lunar Pathfinder spacecraft is expected to orbit the Moon and provide lunar communication services for assets on the lunar surface. NASA will award a task order after issuing a competitive request for task plans to its domestic lunar service providers in the CLPS vendor pool. ESA is working with the UK-based company Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. on the development of Lunar Pathfinder. Lunar Pathfinder is designed to offer S-band and Ultra-High Frequency channels for communications with lunar assets, and communications will be relayed back to Earth ground station(s) in X-band frequencies.
NASA works collaboratively with ESA on a variety of missions, including as a key partner on Gateway with I-Hab, Esprit, and the Sentinel-6 series that makes critical global sea level measurements. Currently, NASA has more than 600 active international agreements with organisations and space agencies around the world.