Astrobotic was selected by NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Sequential Phase II program of development, test and flight of lunar technologies, night survival and communication on board the Cube Rover Platform.
The effort will culminate in a commercial flight to the Moon for CubeRover on an upcoming Astrobotic lander mission, where it will demonstrate the platform’s ability to survive the harsh lunar night environment and use relays satellites to travel long distances.
Surviving the lunar night is no small feat. Temperatures can easily drop to 200⁰C, which would typically disable heat-sensitive components like batteries and electronics and end a rover mission after just one lunar day of operation. To help meet this challenge, Astrobotic has also been contracted by Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc. (ACT) on a separate medium NASA Sequential SBIR for $1.8 million to develop, integrate and demonstrate lunar nocturnal thermal systems aboard rovers and lunar landers.
To take full advantage of lunar night survivability and robust operations, rovers must also be able to travel long distances away from their host landers. This poses a significant communications challenge, where a rover’s host lander may be on the horizon and unable to share a communications relay between Earth and the rover. To meet this challenge, this mission will also demonstrate CubeRover’s use of satellite communication relays, which will greatly extend its reach.
This announcement follows the recent completion of CubeRover Critical Design Review with NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate Tipping Point Program. The team will now move on to CubeRover’s flight qualification campaign, a major step towards preparing for future missions. Astrobotic Lunar Surface Systems can be contacted at [email protected]
”This mission has the potential to usher in a new era of rugged lunar robotics where instruments and payloads can survive months or even years on the surface of the Moon.,” said Michael Provenzano, director of lunar surface systems at Astrobotic. “CubeRover will survive longer and drive further than any lunar rover in its class with this flight, making Astrobotic a big step forward in opening the Moon up to long-term sustained robotic operations. In fact, we even have 1 kilogram of payload space still available on this mission for a payload team looking to take advantage of this capability..”
“Some mobiles are designed to rely on network protocols like Long Term Evolution, or LTE, (similar to how your cell phone transmits data) to transmit over long distances. However, these systems suffer from reduced line-of-sight visibility to their host lander and therefore cannot really drive that far,” said Cedric Corpa de Fuente, chief avionics engineer of lunar surface systems. “We have known this challenge since we started building rovers and it has been a major hurdle to overcome. Following this demonstration, the range of surface operations of our CubeRover product line via satellite communications will be significantly expanded..”