# Does Surrey Satellite's Pathfinder lunar communications relay have customers lined up, or is it “If you build it, they will come”?

After about 24:00 in the BBC podcast Do We Need More Space Stations? BBC reporter Marnie Chesterton talks with Charles Cranston, the project manager for lunar activities at Surrey Satellite Technology in the UK:

MC: So there are observational satellites already in place elsewhere in the solar system, quietly sending back data about what our interplanetary neighbors are really like. And soon, as well as the new Lunar Gateway, those important communication satellites are heading moonward. Charles showed me some plans for their equivalent of a “phone mast” for the Moon.

CC: This is Pathfinder, this is our lunar relay satellite that we’re developing. It’s about a meter on each side, and when it expand its solar panels it’s about 2 meters in width. There’s a large antenna that unfurls at the bottom, which is one part of the communications package, and on either side there’s what called a (PAWN?) which points to the Moon, which is one of the communications aspects, and there’s one that points back to Earth that acts as the relay.

So we basically suck up all of the communications around the Moon if they want to talk to us; they send it to our Pathfinder satellite and we relay that back to Earth to one of the dishes we’ll be using, be it someone like Goonhilly down in Cornwall, or somewhere else around the globe.

MC: When is it going to be in place?

CC: So we’re looking to launch this between 2022 and 2023 to help support NASA’s boots on the ground missions, that’ll have a lifetime of two decades — just under, and then we’re looking to have a successor constellation of multiple satellites there that will also support navigation.

Question: Is Surrey Satellite Technologies speculating that they'll have customers and just going ahead and putting a satellite in orbit around the Moon hoping that someone will subscribe to their service If you build it, they will come style? Or do they already have contracts or at least agreements to provide commercial service to some customers?

The quote mentions supporting "NASA's boots on the ground missions" but I don't know if this is by agreement or just space speculation.

• I think there’s a similar contracting process to Commercial Cargo for Lunar Communication. Even if they don’t end up with NASA as a direct customer, there are likely to be other launch/cargo providers in need of communications in the Moon area. – CourageousPotato Sep 1 '19 at 7:23
• @CourageousPotato I see, so it may indeed be the "If you build it, they will come" effect. – uhoh Sep 1 '19 at 7:42