Fleet of satellites – radio bridge to the “dark side” of the moon

A fleet of satellites to establish a radio bridge to the far side of the moon (NASA)

Mankind is returning to the moon – initially with unmanned probes, in the future also with astronauts. And this time they stay there and make themselves at home. “What is important to stay on the moon? On the one hand, of course, transport. The issue is resolved fairly well. We see a lot of missile suppliers here.”

So transport is not the topic of Sebastian Ströhl, one of the founders of the German-Spanish space company Plus Ultra. “The second issue needed to stay on the moon is communication and navigation.”

Logical – because the rovers and astronauts need to know where they are. And they need a radio bridge to earth. “We only have communication options on the earth-facing side. As the earth rotates, we have very few communication windows per day. The far side and the poles are currently excluded from this.”

light into the dark

But unfortunately that’s where it gets interesting. The far side, the so-called “dark side of the moon”, is still largely unexplored. And the poles are appealing because they have water ice. That’s why a moon base should be built right there.

“And that’s where we want to go in, to offer that infrastructure to any company that has a mission to and on the moon. “Harmony” will be a satellite constellation for communication and navigation for the moon. We have designed our system in such a way that our eight satellites cover the entire moon, i.e. the lunar surface and up to 1000 kilometers above the lunar surface – this is also an area where a lot will happen.”

The planned Gateway space station in lunar orbit would also benefit at least partially from these eight relay satellites. Because the eight “Harmony”Satellites are said to orbit the moon at an altitude of 6,000 kilometers. The first is scheduled to launch at the end of 2023, using a rocket from Rocket Factory Augsburg, RFA One. It is currently in the testing stage, explains board member Jörn Spurmann. “In April 2021 we successfully hotfired the engine for the first time. And the first launch is supposed to be… the public announcement is late ’22. But that will be extremely sporty.”

From Augsburg to the moon

The stylish black rockets from Bavaria are designed to take small satellites to altitudes of between 500 and 1,500 kilometers. Only the eight “Harmony” satellites will be injected into a different orbit. “We will not put them into a 500 km circular orbit for them, but directly into an elliptical one. One end of the ellipse is then no longer a circle around the earth, but that is already far away, more than 30,000 km. And then you don’t have to make that much difference in speed to get to the moon. And the satellites can actually do that themselves.”

The RFA One is to start from the Norwegian rocket station Andøya. That would be geographically closer than Europe’s Kourou spaceport in French Guyana, South America. But the Augsburg developers think it could be even closer: in the water, just off the German coast.

“The North Sea platform is exciting for us because Germany would then think differently about space travel. We can already build satellites in Germany, maybe small launchers in the near future, and if we then had a launch site in Germany, then strategically we could do everything from a single source again.”

In 2023, a rocket is to be launched into space from the North Sea for the first time. One can dream – of the future space nation Germany. Just made in Germany…


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