Artemis 3 is going to land on the Moon's south pole, on the far side of the Moon. Therefore, before launching the crew to the Moon, NASA must put (a) communication satellite(s) either into lunar orbit or to some Lagrangian point. Are there some more concrete plans on how to maintain communication with Houston from the lunar south pole?

  • $\begingroup$ There is some potentially relevant information on higher frequency allocations for cis-lunar space (rather than deep space) in answer(s) to Will there be “Near Space” Ka-band allocations for TESS? but I do see that this is more about geometry than frequency allocation. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jun 15 '20 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ Hmmmm.... wonder how long a cable would be needed to hard-link the station to an antenna on the front face of the Moon? $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Jun 15 '20 at 12:20

In the original draw, Artemis 3 would have docked to the "Lunar Gateway" (or a smaller replacement) from where the Lander would be deployed. Lunar Gateway would be on a highly elliptical seven-day moon orbit (Wiki Lunar Gateway, Orbit). Such an orbit would have most of its time an access to the lunar south pole. Artemis 3 on the other side is only scheduled to stay on moon for 6.5 days (Wiki Artemis 3, Mission).


By early 2020, plans for Orion and the HLS to rendezvous with the Gateway were abandoned in favour of a solo demonstration of Orion and HLS, and development of the Gateway independent of the Artemis program.

Source: Wiki Artemis 3, Development

This is just a problem, if someone plans to put the Artemis 3 Orbiter in a complete different orbit.

On the other hand a relay satellite near a Lagrange-Point would not help, it could not see a pole (at least not with a sufficient elevation) and a set of satellites in low-lunar-orbit would have a problem keeping a "stable" orbit (as every object in a low lunar orbit).


For my own curiosity I checked the orbit in STK: Assuming a kelperian Orbit, 3000 km Peri..Periluna?..Periselene?... Pericenter above moons north pole and a 70000 km Apocenter above moons south pole I get an Orbit Period of about 7d 19.5h. Time with no access to the south pole: about 6h.

  • $\begingroup$ To make it clear: HLS is the crewed lunar lander built by SpaceX for the Artemis program. So if I understand you correctly, through the Orion mothership in polar orbit communication with Houston remains upheld? $\endgroup$ – LoveForChrist Jun 15 '20 at 12:46
  • $\begingroup$ At least the "Lunar Gateway" was planned as a "communication hub" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemis_program#Lunar_Gateway). There is no point in using the A3-Orion-Orbiter instead. (HLS is not necessary SpaceX en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemis_program#Human_Landing_System) $\endgroup$ – CallMeTom Jun 15 '20 at 13:03
  • $\begingroup$ Well, at first they need the Orion because, as you stated, the Gateway will be built after Artemis 3. But if the Orion is above the Moon's north, the crew on the south pole can't talk with Houston either, or did I miss something? $\endgroup$ – LoveForChrist Jun 15 '20 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ @LoveForChrist if you still have questions, would like clarification, or would like more answers, don't click accept so quickly! Give it a day or two, at least one around the planet. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jun 15 '20 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh One can de-accept and accept other answers if there come better ones. Tom answers my question well, I just ask whether I'm right in that through the Orion you can't have a communication with Houston when it's above the Moon's north. $\endgroup$ – LoveForChrist Jun 15 '20 at 15:15

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