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Author Topic:   Astrobotic CubeRover robotic lunar rovers
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 44739
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-01-2020 10:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Astrobotic Technology release
Astrobotic Awarded More Than $1 Million to Advance CubeRover Payloads

Astrobotic has been awarded two contracts by NASA to support the development of payloads for future delivery on its 4U and 6U CubeRovers — the world's first line of commercial lunar rovers. CubeRovers are standardized and scalable, providing planetary surface mobility services that support a variety of scientific and commercial missions.

The first $741,000 contract will fuel work on a novel ultra-wide, non-contact Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) antenna co-developed by Astrobotic and The Ohio State University. The antenna will integrate with a prototype of Astrobotic's 6U CubeRover, the largest of the CubeRover family, and then test its use on the ground. Useful for both Earth and planetary science applications, the single antenna can be integrated with diverse mobile platforms to better support lightweight, affordable, subsurface science investigations. GPR tech at this small, lightweight scale is nonexistent in the space market and could enable simple and reliable characterization of lunar lava tubes, subsurface water-ice, and the location of planetary ore deposits.

The second $375,000 contract will integrate a neutron detector with a ground prototype of Astrobotic's mid-size 4U CubeRover. The rover will house neutron-detecting technology developed by Radiation Detection Technologies, and test its use at a lunar surface analogue site. Neutron detectors are a key technology for finding lunar volatiles, like water. The neutron detector onboard the CubeRover will characterize and map the energy distribution of neutrons indicative of the presence of water ice bound in the lunar regolith. This will give scientists clues into where water is concentrated on the lunar surface, and how and when the Moon acquired its water, as well as insight into the inner solar system's history.

CubeRovers are built in three sizes, 2U, 4U, and 6U, and are based on internationally recognized CubeSat standards to simplify payload integration efforts. The rover trio introduces an off-the-shelf mobile platform for payloads that can host an array of instruments such as spectrometers, neutron detectors, cameras, and other important scientific sensors. These instruments will support payloads for extended mission durations at a reduced weight and lower cost, demonstrating new space technologies and filling key knowledge gaps in our scientific understanding of the Moon.

"We are incredibly excited to continue maturing our 4U and 6U CubeRovers in concert with our future payload users. These contracts allow us to support increasingly robust suites of payloads that enable affordable mobility on the lunar surface," says Michael Provenzano, Astrobotic's Director of Planetary Mobility.

Work for both CubeRovers kicked off this month and will continue through July 2022. The contracts will culminate with a lunar analog demonstration of each CubeRover unit, making all sizes of CubeRover available for subsequent infusion into an upcoming lunar mission.

With work on CubeRovers growing and with a recent $199.5 million new contract win from NASA, Astrobotic is expanding operations and growing its team. Career opportunities are available now at the Astrobotic website. The nation's best technical talent is invited to come make history with their team.

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 44739
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-01-2020 09:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Astrobotic release
NASA Receives First Lunar CubeRover from Astrobotic

After three years of intensive engineering work, Astrobotic's CubeRover is on its way to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The CubeRover is designed to provide an affordable mobile outlet for scientific instruments and other payloads to operate on the surface of the Moon. This occasion marks the first time Astrobotic's Planetary Mobility department has delivered rover hardware to an outside entity.

Named for its modular, scalable design, the CubeRover was co-developed with Carnegie Mellon University, with input from a NASA team at Kennedy, and marks the completion of work on NASA's $750,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 2 contract to develop a lightweight rover with flight characteristics.

Astrobotic has since refined and commercialized the CubeRover product line with the goal of supporting mobility as a service with a variety of diverse payloads, making lunar access easier for smaller tech demonstrations and scientific investigations. The rover is also designed to be integrated onto multiple lunar landers for voyages to the Moon, facilitating its inclusion on a wide variety of future space missions.

Designing the compact CubeRover presented an array of engineering challenges for the Astrobotic and Carnegie Mellon teams. Among many concerns, the teams were tasked with regulating the rover's temperature in extreme climate fluctuations, keeping its mass minimal, and ensuring the rover maintained optimum mobility for instruments operating on the rover. The teams created a robust thermal design able to endure temperatures ranging from space (-455ºF) to the lunar surface (260ºF). The result is the lightest commercial planetary rover ever created. The CubeRover was also outfitted with a calibrated camera used to orient itself relative to known objects on the lunar surface, such as Astrobotic's Peregrine lander. The ability for the rover's operation team to recognize its position on the Moon augments the value of the data, allowing payload customers to make informed decisions about where to travel next.

"Because our CubeRover is so light — in the four kilogram range — it dramatically reduces flight cost, making the Moon more accessible to more customers," says Mike Provenzano, Astrobotic's Director of Planetary Mobility. ""We're also including industry standard interfaces throughout the rover to simplify the payload integration process."

In the coming months, a team at Kennedy's Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations (GMRO) Laboratory will conduct a battery of mobility tests on the CubeRover in their analogous lunar regolith simulant — a terrain that closely mimics the mechanical properties of the lunar surface. These tests will measure the slopes, gaps, and other surface irregularities the rover can navigate. Drop testing will ensure the rover is not at risk of tipping over during its deployment from a lander to the lunar surface.

Astrobotic's work on CubeRover will continue through its $2M Tipping Point contract with NASA, concluding in February 2022. This program funds the flight qualification of the 2U CubeRover product line, and also outfits the rover with a set of advanced features including a lighter all-wheel-drive system, a solar array for recharging, adaptive image compression, and additional interfaces to support a wider variety of landers and payloads.

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