NASA’s Plan for Wi-Fi on the Moon Tested to Stretch Cleveland’s Digital Divide

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A new NASA study shows how a proposed lunar Wi-Fi network could affect communities that lack reliable Internet access on Earth.

The Compass Lab at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland conducted the study in an effort to address connectivity concerns on Earth as a test-case for space. The local neighborhood was compared to the size of a possible Artemis basecamp near the Moon’s south pole.

At the same time, the Greater Cleveland Partnership, an economic development organization, reached out to NASA to find out the most effective way to bring Wi-Fi to about 31% of Cleveland homes without broadband access.

“We work on space crafts all day and the other benefit of that is that we develop technologies that work back here on Earth,” said Steve Olson, Compass team lead. “How do you connect all those things, you don’t just blindly say you’re going to design a wireless system for the Moon, you say how they’ll do it on Earth.”

A crew member aboard the International Space Station captured this nighttime view of Cleveland from an altitude of about 240 miles.
A crew member aboard the International Space Station captured this nighttime view of Cleveland from an altitude of about 240 miles.

The study found that connecting Wi-Fi routers to about 20,000 lampposts or other utility poles would help address connectivity issues in Cleveland. With routers placed no more than 100 yards apart, a four-person household can achieve download speeds of about 7.5 megabits per second (Mbps).

The same pole-based “mesh network” approach has also been proposed for Artemis Basecamp, which could be installed before the end of the decade. Comparable mesh networks have previously been used on a smaller scale in homes and communities such as Brooklyn, New York.

While the Lunar Wi-Fi framework is still conceptual, current applications of the concept are already being explored in communities such as the one it inspired.

“We began a conversation with NASA Glenn and they were intrigued by the idea of ​​using their expertise to investigate this further and solve this community problem,” said Marty McGann, Greater Cleveland Partnership EVP of Advocacy and Strategy. “I think it really sheds light on a potential solution for our community. To think that some of those [NASA’s] The next solution could be a solution to our core community problems which is a really big deal for us.”

The city of Cleveland recently set aside $20 million in US rescue plan funding to address broadband expansion. Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located, also issued a request for proposals (RFP), asking companies for affordable Internet access solutions throughout the county.

“If they can build that network on the Moon I think we should be able to build it here! I never really thought about how work in space might apply to the work that we do here.” …


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