First commercial Earth-to-moon communication relay satellite planned for 2023

Darrell Etherington

Communications between Earth and the moon actually requires a huge amount of equipment under current circumstances. The transmission distance for any data sent from our large natural satellite and us here on Earth is 225,000 miles -- which means a transmission signal requires significant power, and that translates to heavy, bulky transmission equipment to get the job done. In space, weight and bulk immediately translates to costs that ramp up fast.

A new private venture by a new private space company called CommStar Space Communications could help defray that cost by installing a data relay satellite in between the moon and Earth, lowering the weight, power and cost requirements of any communications equipment that needs to be brought along on missions to the moon in the future.

CommStar Space Communications plans to do this by putting a relay satellite closer to the moon, which would also include optical laser communications to make it possible to increase significantly the speed of communications of any assets operating in cislunar (aka, between the Earth and the moon) space. The company's goal is to replicate the efficiencies realized by the advent of commercial private space launch companies, including SpaceX and Rocket Lab, but for the lunar communications market. Ultimately, that could mean big leaps in affordability and practicality for commercial lunar exploration or mining ventures.

The startup is working with Thales Alenia Space for the design of its first satellite, which is named "CommStar-1," and which will kick-off planned development of an entire privately owned and operated network of satellites that the company hopes will act as a communications infrastructure backbone between Earth, the moon and, eventually, other deep space destination.

The goal for the company is to have the first satellite deployed by 2023. Launch partner and plans aren't yet available, but that's an ambitious timeline, so expect them to follow as CommStar builds out its approach.