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A Peek at Astrobotic Tech Heading to the Moon

By Sheena Carroll, Pittsburgh Technology Council

Featured Stories MadeinPA

Cube Rover Ain't Square!

CubeRover AstroboticAstrobotic’s CubeRover is built stout, stiff and simple for survivability during launch and landing.  

The Peregrine and Griffin landers serve as the primary communications node for the CubeRover, relaying data between the payload and Astrobotic’s Mission Control Center. The rover leverages Astrobotic’s Lander communications network as a relay to receive commands and to send telemetry data to the Payload Mission Control Center. CubeRover commands are sent to Astrobotic’s Mission Command using TCP/IP through a private network. 

The CubeRover has undergone extensive mobility testing in lunar regolith simulants and rocky outdoor terrain. Each wheel is driven by an independent, flight-qualified actuator and incorporates special dust covers and seals rigorously tested through independent dust campaigns. It can traverse slopes of up to 30 degrees and obstacles nearly 15cm in diameter. It has a top speed of 10cm/s and can cover multiple kilometers in a single lunar day. 

Because the CubeRover is rechargeable, it can generate continuous power during nominal mission operations. It utilizes pogo pins to receive power from Peregrine or Griffin in transit to the Moon. Each rover utilizes a solar array mounted to the top of the radiator and deployed following egress from the lander. Flight heritage solar cells allow the CubeRover to generate continuous power during roving. This means that ideally at any given time, regardless of orientation with respect to the sun, most of the solar panel surface area has a significant view factor to dark space. 

The CubeRover Teleoperation System allows payload customers to monitor and drive the rover throughout a user defined mission. This system is designed to minimize the risk of mission critical failures and maximize mission functionality.

LunaGrid is a Power Station for the Moon

LunaGrid AstroboticAstrobotic's LunaGrid is a commercial power service for the poles of the Moon. LunaGrid is a power generation and distribution service that will deliver power by the watt to landers, rovers, habitats, science suites, and other lunar surface systems. The service will enable space agencies’, companies’, and nonprofits’ systems to survive the lunar night and operate indefinitely on the Moon starting at the lunar south pole.

LunaGrid is a culmination of systems under development now at Astrobotic. It makes use of the company’s landers, rovers, and wireless chargers as well its Vertical Solar Array Technology (VSAT), which is in development at Astrobotic in concert with NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. 

The first deployment of the LunaGrid system will integrate a VSAT onto an Astrobotic lunar lander and fly to the Moon on a single launch vehicle. Upon landing, the lander will deploy its VSAT to begin generating solar power. Power from the VSAT will be distributed by wireless chargers and tethered CubeRovers, which act as mobile power outlets for customers on the Moon by bringing VSAT-generated power to surface assets. Each VSAT will include the transformers and power management systems needed to extend power capabilities beyond the VSAT itself and into a fully fledged power grid.

“Over the last 15 years, we’ve come to appreciate that power on the Moon is everything,” said Astrobotic CEO, John Thornton. “We can bring a much needed power service to the Moon in short order. Solar power is affordable, commercially friendly, technically mature, and deployable now. LunaGrid’s solar-based system offers the world the fastest, most economical means of establishing sustained lunar presence with no policy hurdles.”

Astrobotic plans to begin deploying and demonstrating LunaGrid elements as early as 2026 with the goal of the first operational LunaGrid by 2028 at the lunar south pole. With LunaGrid power service available, a host of science, exploration, and commercial activity can begin sustained and continuous operation. 

“LunaGrid is the next step in lunar development for our customers. Astrobotic delivers kilograms to the Moon via our landers, drives kilograms across the lunar surface via our rovers, and now provides watts on the Moon via LunaGrid,” added Thornton.