Telecommunications has played a significant role in the development and advancement of mankind and is one of the key enabling capabilities that has fuelled the rate and pace of growth. Telecommunications is deemed to be a critical infrastructure with a significant social, cultural and economic impact on society, in fact a stark contrast can be seen between those communities and individuals in areas with good infrastructure and those without.
The provision of telecommunications services is today primarily a commercial endeavour, with a business model based on revenues derived from provision of capacity to other companies or direct to consumers, having transitioned from the early days of being government or institutionally owned and operated.
Taking the experience and lessons learnt from growth on Earth, it is evident that telecommunications will play a critical role in the exploration, habitation and settlement of the moon, with the success and rate of development being heavily dependent on the approach adopted and the corresponding infrastructure deployed.
The lunar related activities to date can best be described as piecemeal and largely uncoordinated with individual countries, and more recently entities, each doing their own thing, or at best teaming on specific missions or opportunities. Many missions have carried their own communications capabilities, enabling them to communicate with the Earth, independent of other missions occurring at the same time, and few have utilised or exploited the communications capabilities of other missions to fulfil or enhance their own mission objectives. It must be acknowledged that there are limited choices as the infrastructure does not currently exist to enable missions to lease capacity for communication to and from Earth. The current situation should not be taken as a criticism of any of the parties involved in lunar exploration, but simply a recognition of the fledgling or adolescent nature of this application and associated market.
If we are to implement a lunar economic action plan and to facilitate the timely and cost effective habitation of the moon, then it would be advantageous to attempt to coordinate efforts, to establish a common telecommunications architecture or framework, and to encourage the commercial provision of telecommunications services.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
John Paffett is managing director of KIPSE Limited, a specialist project engineering, system design and implementation company working in the space, telecommunications and electronics industries. He is also the founder of Applied Space Solutions Limited a company focused on the provision of space related analytics, applications and services, and a Member of the Board of Swedish Space Corporation.
An advocate for driving the sustainable use and application of space, he has proven engineering, management, strategic, business and business development skills, with a track record of working with international space industry partners in securing new business opportunities and delivering complex projects.
He was previously the Director of Telecommunications, Navigation and Launch services, for the small satellite manufacture Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), and Chief Executive Officer of the groups US subsidiary (SST-US). He is accustomed to interfacing with senior officials in the international space community and skilled at developing innovative approaches to meet challenging space business needs.
As well as a strong technical and managerial background in satellite engineering, he has a wealth of experience, in the set-up, growth, acquisition, divestment, management and operation of businesses.