LoRaWAN gets to the Moon... and back

Engineers working on LPWAN protocols regularly post reports of “longest transmission”... The competition started with terrestrial networks, then used planes and even balloons. The world record never lasted long. This time the bar has been set –literally- very high and the record is likely to stay for a while! 

To round up 2021, a new distance record of 730,360 km has been achieved with LoRaWAN®  technology. On October 5th, for the first time, a LoRaWAN message was sent to the Moon and successfully demodulated after bouncing. Modulation and demodulation used the latest LR1110 transceiver chip from Semtech, and the Dwingeloo radio telescope was used as the antenna. 

How did they do it? 

This signal was transmitted with Semtech’s LR1100 RF Transceiver Chip (through the 430-440 MHz amateur band), amplified to 350 Watt, and then transmitted using the 25-meter Dwingeloo dish. The message took 2.44 seconds to get to the Moon and travel back, being received by the same chip. 

The Dwingeloo radio telescope has been used many times to undergo experiments and moon bounces. It was first commissioned to undergo exploration of the Milky Way’s structure and has now allowed for the first time for a data message to bounce off the Moon using an RF chip. 

This Semtech chip has also allowed measuring the trip time of the message and the frequency offset due to the Doppler effect caused by the relative motion of the Earth and the Moon. As well as LoRa®  chips, an SDR (Software Defined Radio) was used to capture both the transmitted and received signals for further analysis. 

Deploy your own kit 

An evaluation kit for Semtech’s LR 1110 transceiver can be found on ThingPark Market, in the IoT (Internet of Things) Solutions area, included in the Lora Edge Asset Management Evaluation Kit, developed by Actility in cooperation with Semtech and Tago.Io.  

This kit now offers solution providers and system integrators a complete solution to quickly evaluate the Semtech LoRa Edge LR 1100 Cloud technology for asset management solutions.  

The LoRa Edge Asset Management Evaluation kit offers low-power geolocation, by using Semtech’s LoRa Cloud Geolocation service to significantly undercut power consumption (compared to traditional GNSS geolocation) by determining asset location in a cloud-based server. The service is also designed for best-in-class security leveraging the LR1110 onboard crypto-engine and secure key storage. 

This solution also allows for deploying any related use case in record time, the gateways included in the kit are pre-provisioned on ThingPark Community which is seamlessly integrated to Semtech Cloud Join server as part of a pre-established roaming interface based on ThingPark Exchange. This means that as soon as you have claimed your LR1110 ownership keys on the Semtech Join server, the devices can join the LoRaWAN network powered by the ThingPark Community platform. ThingPark Community now also includes seamless integration to Semtech’s cloud location solver as part of ThingPark’s extensive library of drivers and processors, which means the LR1110 can be interfaced to any of the ThingPark Enterprise Connectors, e.g. Azure IoT Central or IoT Hub, using ready-to-use pre-decoded JSON payload. A complete tutorial and step-by-step procedure are provided together with the kit, as well as professional support. 

A great validation experiment for LoRaWAN robustness 

It means a lot that the experiment used the standard LoRaWAN(r) layer 2, now standardized by ITU. This demonstrates that the standard frames were robust enough to be successfully demodulated despite the extreme link budget conditions and presence of the doppler effect, without requiring extra coding overhead. 

This fun experiment provides confidence that LoRaWAN is also the right technology to use in industrial environments and for wide-area IoT networking.