NASA is looking to put 4G/LTE communications technology on the Moon as part of its next phase of space exploration.

On Thursday, the US space agency announced it was awarding Nokia $19.6 million (US$14 million) in funding toward the communications project.

“Inspired by terrestrial technology, Nokia proposes to deploy the first LTE/4G communications system in space,” NASA said.

“The system could support lunar surface communications at greater distances, increased speeds, and provide more reliability than current standards.”

Nokia is one of 10 companies NASA is funding as part of its Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative that seeks to build the technology required to establish a long-term scientific foothold on Earth’s nearest celestial neighbour.

Along with an Earth-like communications networks, NASA is funding the development of a fast, wireless charging system, robotics, and ways to generate and store energy using the Moon’s existing resources.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a webinar on Thursday that private companies were crucial for its upcoming set of missions to the Moon.

“NASA believes that these types of companies and the capabilities that they’ve developed are going to be transformational for how we explore space.

“But we also believe it’s going to take a little bit of a push from NASA. We need to put some of our own money on the table.”

NASA’s latest funding round will also see the likes of Lockheed Martin and SpaceX develop and explore ways to manage cryogenic fluids – like frozen water on the Moon’s poles – that can be used as propellants.

NASA’s Artemis program will soon see humans return to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

The space agency plans on landing the first woman on the Moon by 2024 and wants to establish a more permanent presence on the Moon in order better understand the history of our Solar System.

“The moon is a repository of data and information from the early Solar System,” Bridenstine said.

“That’s an important repository that we need to get access to, that we need to study so we can learn how our Solar System formed.”

Earlier this week, NASA announced the first eight countries to sign its Artemis Accords. The signatories – Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the UAE, the UK, and the US – all agree to a set of principles, such peaceful exploration, that NASA hopes will govern future space missions.

China and Russia – two countries with space capabilities far-exceeding those of signatories like Australia – were notably absent from the Artemis Accords.