Network based systems

moon: Meet the Indian who sets up the first cellular network on the moon


NEW DELHI: If the records are up to it, this one is surely special because it results in the establishment of the first 4G network on the moonand establish the first extra-terrestrial cellular mobility that could one day be further extended to connect future robotic and human missions to space, and even to Mars.
The best part: He’s an Indian – born in New Delhi into a middle-class business family – who’s leading the effort to pull off the feat that will provide mobile connectivity to China’s ambitious Artemis moon landing program. NASA, which wants to establish a long-term human-robotic presence on the moon as a precursor to future missions to Mars.
Nishant Batra, based in Espoo, Finland, is the global head of strategy and technology for Finland’s €22 billion major telecommunications network Nokia, with responsibility for also leading the technical architecture. and pioneering research at Bell Labs, a research and science development lab that has to its credit nine Nobel Prizes and five Turing Awards for cutting-edge, future-defining innovations.
Holder of an MBA from the prestigious business school INSEAD, Batra, born in 1978, had obtained his bachelor’s degree in computer applications from Devi Ahilya University in Indore. Later, he completed a master’s degree in telecommunications and a master’s degree in computer science from Southern Methodist University in the United States. Ask him about the lunar connectivity project – awarded by NASA to Nokia in October 2020 – and Batra begins to deconstruct challenges and opportunities.
But first: can a regular call be made from the moon once the 4G network is up and running? And can we watch movies and videos from streaming players? “If you operate a 4G network on the moon, this device will work there. And then, if someone is carrying this device, they can make a call to their home as long as it is legally permitted. I’m not sure it will be legally allowed for very long. These (networks) are very safe for the system, highly secure (and) not for public use,” Batra, recently in Delhi for a business visit, told TOI.
NASA, which envisions a human landing on the moon by 2024 as a follow-up to the historic 1969 moon landing mission led by Neil Armstrong, wants to use the network established by Nokia to help provide critical communications capabilities for tasks that astronauts will need. to achieve, such as remote control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation and high-definition video streaming.
“With the Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before. We will collaborate with commercial and international partners and establish the first long-term presence on the Moon. Then we will use what we learn on and around the Moon to take the next giant leap: sending the first astronauts to Mars,” the US space agency said when discussing the mission in September 2020.
The idea of ​​a cellular network is an integral part of the Artemis plan which envisions conducting long-term work in space and performing tasks that support life away from Earth.
Batra – whose teams are also engaged in cutting-edge research into 6G technologies – says the lunar network could be a reality within this very year. “The goal is to achieve this in the coming months… (But) since this is a NASA project, I cannot give you the exact launch date. But it’s a matter of months, not years.
Speaking of the complexity of the project, Batra says, “The big difference is that we are not using any personalized communication links in this project. Now we use standard operating technology to communicate in cis-lunar environments. Indeed, we are not building new technology to create links to the moon. The ease of a regular network opens up a myriad of possibilities. “If we talk about a technological leap, we could use cellular technologies in space in the future, beyond what is possible today.”
What if the difficult and different lunar terrain makes it difficult to deploy developed tools on Earth? “The base station must survive the lunar environment. It must be hardened. For a base station, if the temperature is below minus 60 degrees, it fades. So you have to stabilize the temperature, to make it survive in an environment like that. It is a new invention indeed. Similarly, moisture constraints must be addressed. Humidity should be maintained at the required level; at the same time, we also need to protect the equipment from rust.
As for the materials, Batra says that while the standard electronics are the same as those used on land, the construction of the base station is different from that of a typical base station. “On lunar space, you don’t need to mount the base station on the tower…there is no obstruction or interference.” And while the lunar mission is the immediate challenge, Batra teams are also working on new era technologies, including those related to 6G and the immersive and highly responsive virtual digital world, commonly referred to as Metaverse.
Batra says India, and India’s engineering and IT talents, are among the best in the world and will play a key role in developing future technologies. “India is currently doing well in terms of applied innovation, which is focused on how to release the next product, how to release the next software, how to release the next service. It would be a dream come true for me if I I could have more Bell Labs type work in India, focused on fundamental innovation and not applied innovation.
He says Nokia and Bell Labs would hire more in India. “At Bell Labs, we believe that the best talent in the world comes from Bangalore. It was agreed even by world leaders during our discussions. So we decided to hire more people from India, especially for standardization and advanced 5G to start with. »

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