ESA has long-established plans to create a commercial lunar satellite network and now seeks expressions of interest from companies prepared to build and operate it.
Efforts to explore the Moon have substantially grown recently, partly because it is a convenient place to develop the technologies and capabilities needed for people to explore deep space.
As a result a new lunar economy is emerging, which presents opportunities involving robots, habitat and transportation, as well as the provision of communications and navigation services.
Although space agencies remain the driving force behind space exploration, private companies are entering the market as well as public-private partnerships.
For the past three years ESA has been working along with industrial partners to explore the lunar market. It has identified the demand for a communication and navigation service to support the ongoing and future lunar missions.
All the proposed missions to the Moon share similar communications and navigation needs that could be satisfied by a commercial service provider.
The lunar satellites would provide communication and navigation signals for all these missions, ensuring adequate positioning services and constant connectivity for ground control and for scientists on Earth.
ESA is conducting deeper analysis of the lunar market and further elaborate possible solutions, both technical and business-related, to provide communications and navigation services for the Moon, as part of an initiative called Moonlight.
Companies interested in this opportunity are invited to respond to ESA’s call for expressions of interest to contribute to commercial satellite services for the Moon. Firms that have yet to register with ESA's online tendering platform should do so and then search for invitation 20.1TF.04. The deadline is 17 August.