New Space and Tech

Crescent: Giving The Moon The Business

By Leonard David
April 25, 2023
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Crescent: Giving The Moon The Business
NASA’s Artemis program to establish a sustainable presence on the Moon will require extensive communications and relaying of data back to Earth. Image credit: NASA

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado – The future of Moon exploration for lunar science and long-term development is advancing private plans for communicating from and navigating across the crater-pocked lunar terrain.

A newly formed deep space infrastructure company is putting in place a common infrastructure around the Moon, offering it as an inventive commercial network service for future outposts and other assets that will soon dot that distant landscape.

Crescent is a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, created to be a service provider by establishing a cislunar communications and navigation network called Parsec. Crescent will own and operate the Parsec network upon launch of its first nodes in 2025.

Joe Landon is the chief executive officer leading the Crescent team. Multiverse Media’s SpaceRef caught up with Landon in an exclusive interview during the Space Foundation’s 38th Space Symposium, held here April 17 – 20.

Joe Landon, Crescent’s chief executive officer, discusses the company’s Parsec cislunar communications and navigation network with SpaceRef reporter Leonard David. Credit: Lockheed Martin/Lauren Duda

Growing market

“Initially, two satellites will provide sufficient coverage for the missions that are coming up,” Landon said, “and as a modular system, we can add additional spacecraft in the future as demand increases.” For the foreseeable future, activity on the Moon is concentrated at the lunar south pole, he added.

With other nations setting their sights on the Moon, like China and Russia, including the European Space Agency, they too are keen on putting in place lunar relay satellites.

“I do think it’s going to be a competitive market because it’s a good market, a growing market,” Landon told SpaceRef.

Newly created Crescent subsidiary of Lockheed Martin initially calls for a two satellite system of data relay spacecraft circuiting the Moon in 2025. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

End-to-end service

NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation program has already begun to blueprint “LunaNet” standards to facilitate interoperability with other networks, be they international partners, NASA itself, and commercial providers. The intention of LunaNet is to negotiate mutually-agreed upon standards.

That LunaNet framework is important, said Landon. “When NASA has humans on the surface, for instance, we want to make sure that for the safety of that crew there’s plenty of communications capability available.”

So even at the Moon, in the event of a communications breakdown, say caused by hardware gone kaput, it’s a bit like a Ghostbusters mantra – the who ya going to call?

The Parsec service has different levels of end-to-end service, including handling urgent situations, Landon said. “When our commercial customers are using the system, if there is an emergency with crew or some other event, it can take priority over other traffic. We’ve built the system to handle those types of needs.”

Industry growth

The Crescent satellite draws upon Lockheed Martin’s Curio smallsat “bus” – the main body of the spacecraft that’s packed with needed gear to operate in the deep- space environment.

Landon said that Crescent is working with a commercial ground network partner for Earth antennas. In the meantime, his team is engineering a user terminal for the Moon, so missions can talk to their network.

What data will Crescent relay?

There are two main categories, Landon explained, with science data a big one. Also, whether it’s a lander, rover, or power station, for instance, Crescent will convey command and control telemetry from those devices, he said.

“With Parsec we’ll also be able to provide the type of video that people expect to see once Moon landings occur,” Landon pointed out, and that means high- bandwidth color video.

“Crescent is our approach to structuring a new business,” Landon concluded, lowering the barrier of entry for customers hungry to investigate our neighboring world, widening the aperture for business on and around the Moon, and elevating the promise of industry growth in space.

Leonard David

Leonard is author of Moon Rush: The New Space Race, Mars – Our Future on the Red Planet, and co-authored with Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin of Mission to Mars – My Vision for Space Exploration - all published by the National Geographic Society.