New Space and Tech

ESA Wants Bright Ideas To Develop The Lunar Economy

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
October 9, 2023
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ESA Wants Bright Ideas To Develop The Lunar Economy
Future Lunar Commerce

ESA is calling for visionary ideas for how to use a constellation of communication and navigation satellites around the Moon to establish lunar businesses – and unlock opportunities on Earth.

Hundreds of missions to the Moon are due to be launched in the coming years. To create a sustainable lunar link, ESA has initiated its Moonlight programme to support space companies in Europe to create a constellation of lunar satellites. The satellites will offer communication and navigation services that could empower entrepreneurs to create innovative businesses for customers on the Moon and on Earth.

These businesses will create new jobs in Europe and around the world. Economic consultants have estimated that the total lunar revenue opportunities could be €40 billion over the next decade, rising to almost €160 billion up to 2040.

For example, utilities companies could use lunar connectivity to remotely manage power generation, storage, and distribution infrastructure on the Moon. Mining companies could use lunar satellite positioning to accurately locate and extract water, oxygen and hydrogen for life support and propellant, as well as mining material for building a lunar base.

Data companies could use the satellites to communicate with secure data centres on the Moon that store data in the cold conditions at the lunar poles. Entertainment companies could exploit the lunar environment for games, movies and other leisure activities that use lunar positioning and data exchange between the Moon and Earth.

Having a long-term robotic or human presence on the Moon could require innovative services that exploit Moonlight’s capabilities. The creation of such businesses could boost the lunar economy by using commercial opportunities on Earth – from new developments in agriculture and transport to life support systems and medicine – on the Moon.

ESA has today launched a competition for visionary business ideas that use lunar communication and navigations services to address customer needs on Earth and on the Moon. It expects to offer one-year contracts to develop and assess the feasibility, viability, and demand by potential customers of the ideas. The best ones may be eligible to apply for follow-on opportunities – companies are invited to become pioneers of the lunar economy by submitting their brightest ideas.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.