The European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter has captured an image of a massive solar eruption that belched hot plasma 2.2 million miles into space. Fortunately, the eruption, which took place February 15, is heading away from the Earth, reports BGR.
When so-called coronal mass ejections face the Earth, which is 92 million miles away, they can overwhelm the protection provided by the Earth’s magnetic field and wreak havoc on telecommunications systems and power grids.
The Moon has no magnetic field, and giant solar eruptions could do even more damage to infrastructure on the lunar surface.
WiBotic makes wireless charging military and industrial drones and robots in punishing environments on Earth. Soon, as a participant in a $5.8 million contract with space robotics company Astrobotic, Bosch, and the University of Washington, the Seattle-based company will be creating wireless charging solutions for robots on the even more punishing environment of the Moon.
The wireless inductive technology will work according to the same physical principles as charging pads for phones, only on a bigger scale. It will eliminate the need for charging cables, a weak link for lunar vehicles on the harsh lunar surface, reports ZDNet.
“By removing dependencies to solar charging, a new wide range of opportunities for smaller and lighter systems becomes available for missions that were not within reach before — such as survival of lunar night missions,” says Cedric Corpa de la Fuente, electrical engineer for Planetary Mobility at Astrobotic.
Long term, WiBotic wants to become a player in creating electrical grids on the Moon.
“Our longer term vision is to pioneer a lunar wireless power grid to supply energy for a wide range of both manned and unmanned vehicles, irrespective of their individual battery types, voltages or required power levels,” says WiBotic CEO Ben Waters. “This is only the first step in creating a common infrastructure of wireless charging stations and Fleet Energy management software to be deployed across the surface of the moon.”
Building a wireless communications infrastructure on the Moon will face challenges not found on Earth, but the end result could be superior communications.
In addition to power and shelter, a lunar base station will need a way to communicate with Earth, with astronauts outside the habitat, and with lunar rovers. Anticipating that need, NASA has awarded Nokia Bell Labs and 13 other companies, including SpaceX and Lockheed-Martin, five-year contracts totaling more than $370 million to demonstrate key infrastructure technologies on the lunar surface, reports IEEE Spectrum.
The antennas and base stations will need to be ruggedized for the harsh, radiation-intensive environment, plus a lunar day-light cycle in which temperatures swing more than 250ºC between light and shadow. Because every piece of hardware in the network must be transported from Earth, equipment needs to be hardened for stresses such as vibration, shock and acceleration from launch and landing.
Designers also want to avoid polluting the lunar surface with radio signals that might interfere with radio astronomy. Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) “can be mitigated at the source with appropriate shielding and precision in the emission of signals,” writes Emma Alexander, a physicist writing for The Conversation. “Astronomers are constantly developing strategies to cut RFI from their data. But this increasingly relies on the goodwill of private companies.”
The good news is that the lack of an atmosphere and absence of terrestrial obstructions such as trees and buildings likely will mean better signal propagation.
NASA has issued a Request for Information to help it flresh out plans for LunaNet, a communications and navigation architecture for the Moon.
While communications at present are limited to portions of the Moon facing the Earth, LunaNet would allow robotic landers, rovers, scientific devices and astronauts to transit data to Earth through Moon-orbiting satellites or space stations from the far side or poles of the Moon.
According to GCN, LunaNet is expected to include three categories of services:
Networking services capable of moving data between nodes that adhere to confidentiality, integrity and availability requirements.
Position, navigation and timing services for orientation and velocity determination, as well as time synchronization and dissemination. These services could be used for search and rescue, surface navigation and location tracking
Science services providing situational alerts and scientific measurements that could support predictions of major solar eruptions that affect space weather.