(Image: Drawing of a communications/navigation satellite in lunar orbit. Credit: NASA / Pat Rawlings)
With NASA planning on sending astronauts to live lunar side for six month sessions, the agency is attempting to figure out the best way to establish a communication network upon that eggshell colored world.
While establishing radio towers may be effective if one is constantly facing Earth, creating a GPS network is probably more ideal.
(Space.com) Getting radio signals to these hard-to-reach places is going to require a go-between that can cope with the constant gravitational nudges from the Earth, moon and sun.
One potential path a lunar communication satellite (com-sat) could take is by following a “frozen orbit” around the moon. In such an orbit the satellite’s orbital characteristics remain constant despite prods from the moon’s lumpy gravity field.
This uneven gravity field is due to mascons, large concentrations of mass in the lunar crust.
“You can think of it [a frozen orbit] as a roller coaster ride over the lunar mascons. If you pick the path just right, the tugs and pulls of the mascons will end up cancelling each other out. At the end, the spacecraft will be right back where it started in the orbit,” Hill told SPACE.com.
This would give greater flexibility for astronauts as they could establish lunar bases on the “dark side” of the Moon. This would also benefit astronauts if they decided to roam the moonscape in search of resources or to satisfy scientific curiosities.