LunaNet Position, Navigation, and Timing Services and Signals, Enabling the Future of Lunar Exploration

Pietro Giordano, Richard Swinden, Cheryl Gramling, Juan Crenshaw, Javier Ventura-Traveset

Abstract: The International Space Exploration Coordination Group established in 2018 the 3rd edition of the Global Exploration Roadmap (ISECG, 2018) that aims to achieve Mars human surface activities and identifies the exploration of the Moon as a critical intermediate step. A supplement covering updates on surface exploration scenarios was released in 2020 (ISECG, 2020). The Artemis Accords (NASA Artemis, 2020), first signed in October 2020, now includes over two dozen nations, in an agreement on the principles for best practices, including interoperability. In September 2022 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) introduced the Moon to Mars Objectives highlighting recurring tenets of collaboration with international and industry partners and interoperability, along with infrastructure objectives for Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT). The successful Artemis 1 mission paved the way to the ambitious plans to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon. Just a few months after Artemis 1 launch (NASA, 2022), iSpace HAKUTO-R Mission1 (iSpace, 2022) launched, being the first-ever mission launched by a commercial launch service provider aiming to land on the lunar surface. The NASA Artemis program plans initial crewed landings and surface traverses in 2025, supported by the Lunar Gateway. Regular launches will follow to build the lunar systems for a sustained presence as presented in the Artemis Plan (NASA Artemis Plan, 2020), (NASA, 2022). NASA’s contracts with commercial providers through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program (CLPS, (NASA, n.d.)) will deliver science and technology demonstration missions to the Moon starting in November 2023. The European Space Agency (ESA) Argonaut (ESA Argonaut, 2022) program plans to have recurrent missions to bring payloads to the lunar surface, supporting lunar exploration. These are just a few examples of planned missions that will target Earth’s natural satellite in the next decade, with forecasts of tens of missions per year (NSR, 2022), (Euroconsult, 2020). The large number of missions and the complexity of landing and operating are expected to demand a change of paradigm from the current Earth-based communication and navigation services, that may be combined with onboard sensors. In recent years, several agencies have proposed to deploy cislunar communication and navigation services to support lunar missions (NASA LCRNS, 2022), (ESA Moonlight, 2022), (JAXA, 2022)). All these proposals seek to deploy service-providing satellites in lunar orbit to ease the user missions’ operations. The PNT services objective is to support all types of lunar users (e.g.: orbiters, landers, ascent vehicles, surface crew, rovers, and deployed science payloads). At the same time, NASA and ESA initiated an effort to define a common framework to ensure interoperability among different service providers: the LunaNet framework. The LunaNet Interoperability Specification (NASA and ESA, 2023) covers communication, PNT, and auxiliary services, by establishing a common set of requirements to ensure interoperability. This conference contribution will present the LunaNet PNT services, focusing on the Lunar Augmented Navigation Service (LANS) that would be provided by a system that resembles the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) concept on Earth: constellations of satellites broadcasting a radio navigation signal synchronized to a common reference clock, with augmentations to accommodate users’ needs in an environment away from Earth. This paper includes a description of the high-level LANS concept, and the basic principles defined to ensure interoperability. In addition, it will describe the common S-band PNT Augmented Forward Signal (AFS) and common messages to be adopted for compliance with the LunaNet framework, and the justification of the selected approach.
Published in: Proceedings of the 36th International Technical Meeting of the Satellite Division of The Institute of Navigation (ION GNSS+ 2023)
September 11 - 15, 2023
Hyatt Regency Denver
Denver, Colorado
Pages: 3577 - 3588
Cite this article: Giordano, Pietro, Swinden, Richard, Gramling, Cheryl, Crenshaw, Juan, Ventura-Traveset, Javier, "LunaNet Position, Navigation, and Timing Services and Signals, Enabling the Future of Lunar Exploration," Proceedings of the 36th International Technical Meeting of the Satellite Division of The Institute of Navigation (ION GNSS+ 2023), Denver, Colorado, September 2023, pp. 3577-3588.
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