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Lockheed Martin launches biz to build lunar satellite network

Crescent Space will be 'well positioned' to get a piece of NASA's cash pie, no contract yet

Aerospace firm Lockheed Martin has announced the launch of a subsidiary to build a satellite communications network to connect future Moon missions with those of us stuck on Earth. 

Crescent Space Services' first big project will be Parsec, a "novel cislunar communications and navigation network," which will use a constellation of small satellites built by Lockheed Martin to connect lunar explorers to each other and ground control on Earth.

Lockheed Martin describes Parsec's communications links between the Moon and Earth as being "completely controlled by the network," which it said will save those involved in mission planning some IT support time so they can focus on operations instead.

Along with being a communications network, Parsec will also act as a lunar positioning system "informing those on the ground of their exact location, hidden hazards and even how to get back to base," Lockheed Martin said. 

Crescent said the components needed to get Parsec into space already exists: they'll consist of Lockheed Martin's Curio satellite systems that NASA has already chosen for its Janus and Lunar Trailblazer missions, its SmartSat satellite software and its COMPASS/Horizon mission planning and control software.

Lunar navigation, and its associated challenge of timekeeping, has been a hot topic for NASA and the ESA of late. Earlier this month the ESA said defining time on the Moon would be necessary to coordinate multiple missions on our natural satellite, for which NASA has developed the LunaNet framework.

LunaNet consists of "standards, protocols and interface requirements," that would help lunar missions work together without having to go back and add interoperability standards after the fact, as was the case with some global navigation satellite systems on Earth.

NASA has released draft interoperability specifications for LunaNet; Lockheed Martin told The Register that Parsec is being designed to conform to LunaNet's interoperability standards.

You, uh, got a contract for that satellite?

Crescent said it plans to offer additional services in the future "to further enable science, exploration and commerce at the Moon and in deep space," but that depends on getting contracts to do so.

"With momentum gaining around humanity's return to the Moon, this is an immediate area of opportunity for Crescent," the company said - without stating whether it had actually secured any deals to get its constellation into orbit. 

"Crescent is well positioned to serve the upcoming wave of lunar science and exploration missions, including NASA's crewed Artemis moon landings," said Crescent CEO Joe Landon. Before being tapped to lead Crescent, Landon was Lockheed Martin's VP and GM for lunar infrastructure services. Being well positioned, we note, does not mean the company will actually get an award.

Crescent said it plans to launch the first satellites of the Parsec constellation in 2025, with will add more nodes over time. We asked Lockheed Martin if it or Crescent had been in talks with NASA to make a parsec into more than just a measure of space smuggling efficiency, and a Lockheed Martin spokesperson told us the company isn't under contract right now.

"Lockheed Martin believes so strongly in the future of the lunar economy that we have invested our own money in developing the first two Parsec satellites needed for Crescent’s fundamental lunar communications and navigation services," the company spokesperson told us in an email.

Lockheed Martin said Parsec spacecraft are funded and in development, and reiterated that the company is still operating with a baseline launch date of 2025. ®

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