Spaceflight Insider

Astrobotic wins NASA award to produce small lunar rover

Astrobotic's Peregrine lander in the company's lab in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The first mission of Peregrine is slated to deliver a collection of rovers, scientific instruments, and personal mementos to the surface of the Moon sometime in 2020. Photo Credit: Michael Cole / Spaceflight Insider

Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander. Photo Credit: Michael Cole / Spaceflight Insider

Astrobotic, in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, has been selected by NASA to receive a Phase II SBIR award to develop a small lunar rover capable of carrying on small scale science and exploration on the Moon and other planetary surfaces.

Artist's rendering of the Peregrine lander on the Moon.

Artist’s rendering of the Peregrine lander on the Moon. Image Credit: Astrobotic

Astrobotic’s CubeRover should weigh in at approximately 4.4 lbs (2 kg). It is designed to utilize its lunar payload delivery service to provide NASA and potential other customers accessibility to the lunar surface at a very low cost.

Following up on the success of Cubesats, the deployment of which opened up satellite access to non-government entities such as smaller scale companies and universities, it is hoped that the CubeRover will use a standardized architecture allowing other members of the space exploration community to develop new systems and instruments that are all compatible with the CubeRover’s architecture.

It is thought that this commonality could decrease expenses which will allow for smaller scale lunar science and exploration missions. It could potentially also increase the overall functionality of the rover since it might be possible for multiple customers to utilize the rover on the same mission.

“CubeRover stands to give more people access to the Moon than ever before. Countries and organizations without multi-billion-dollar budgets now have a means of exploring other worlds for the first time. We are thrilled NASA is supporting our vision to innovate lunar surface mobility,” said Dr. Andrew Horchler, Principal Investigator of the program at Astrobotic via a release.

The NASA SBIR program provides funding to small businesses with less than 500 employees or a Non-profit such as a University or research laboratory in order to develop new and innovative technologies that fulfill NASA mission requirements as outlined in their annual solicitations. In addition the new technologies must have potential to be used commercially by the private sector.

Companies that were selected for Phase 1 of the program provide technical and scientific documents and plans for their products as well as outline how their products will be useful to commercial customers.

InPhase I, Astrobotic and Carnegie Mellon University collaborated on the development of a 2-kg rover prototype that could explore the surface of the Moon. They performed engineering studies to determine the architecture of a novel chassis, body type, power system, and computing system that would be the foundation of the new rover. They also produced flight software and new navigational techniques for small rovers.

By moving on to Phase 2, Astrobotic will now move into the actual development and delivery of a flight ready lander to NASA.  The Phase 2 contract lasts for 24 months with a maximum funding amount of $750,000.

The team intends to fly the first CubeRover on Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander to the Moon in 2020. The Peregrine lander, still under development, will fly payloads to lunar orbit and to the surface. The lander will  perform an autonomous landing.

 

 

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Lloyd Campbell’s first interest in space began when he was a very young boy in the 1960s with NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs. That passion continued in the early 1970s with our continued exploration of our Moon, and was renewed by the Shuttle Program. Having attended the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on its final two missions, STS-131, and STS-133, he began to do more social networking on space and that developed into writing more in-depth articles. Since then he’s attended the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, the agency’s new crew-rated Orion spacecraft on Exploration Flight Test 1, and multiple other uncrewed launches. In addition to writing, Lloyd has also been doing more photography of launches and aviation. He enjoys all aspects of space exploration, both human, and robotic, but his primary passions lie with human exploration and the vehicles, rockets, and other technologies that allow humanity to explore space.

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