Astrobotic's CubeRover Performs Over 150 Mobility Tests to Visit Moon
Researchers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are testing some pretty cool new technology that will soon be deployed on the Moon. The four-wheeled CubeRover is passing over 150 mobility tests in environments that mimic the lunar surface.
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The robot is the invention of Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh in cooperation with Kennedy’s Swamp Works team. The teams are also now investigating the robot’s maneuverability and how its sensor, motor, and power systems operate in a Moon-like environment.
“CubeRovers are light – in the 9-pound (4kg) range – and have relatively low deployment and development costs. This dramatically reduces flight cost, making CubeRovers excellent platforms for technology demonstration missions,” said Mike Provenzano, Astrobotic’s director of planetary mobility.
The researchers have been working on the CubeRover for more than 10 years now. The shoebox-sized robots will soon demonstrate what it is like to recharge from a centralized power source in a regolith environment, repair surface assets, and establish a local communication infrastructure network.
“It’s exciting to provide logistics support for the current testing of the Astrobotic CubeRover,” said Jim Mantovani, the person leading the CubeRover project at Kennedy. “It’s always great to see NASA and small business collaborate to help mature technology, and I am looking forward to seeing commercial rovers working on the Moon," he continued.
NASA's Artemis program will see the agency send several science experiments and technology demonstrations to the Moon starting in 2021. NASA also has contracts with 14 companies to bid on robotic deliveries for the agency through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.
These deliveries will also send small rovers, like the CubeRover, to the lunar surface. CLPS provider missions plane to begin with these small rovers but work their way up to sending larger payloads with bigger robots.
NASA is funding research to develop a landmark-based AI navigation system for future robotic and human missions on the moon.