The Airbus DS subsidiary, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) which specialises in the manufacture of small satellites, has announced that it is designing a low cost 35kg lunar communications satellite mission called DoT-4. Targeted for a 2021 launch to the Moon, DoT-4 will provide the communications relay back to Earth via the Goonhilly Deep Space Network located in Cornwall. The plan is that this satellite will be able to link a small rover moving on the surface of the Moon back to Earth. The rover plan is expected to be confirmed next year.
DoT-4 will be the pre-cursor mission for a larger lunar communications satellite to follow in the 2023 timeframe which will carry a more robust payload and which will also have the potential for navigation services. SSTL’s ultimate aim is to launch a full constellation of lunar communications satellites offering full service capability to enable new and regular opportunities for science and exploration and economic development of the space environment beyond Earth’s orbit. DoT-4 is one of a series of Demonstration of Technology (DoT) missions that SSTL is planning to launch over the coming years.