CubeRover is a class of planetary rover with a standardized modular format meant to accelerate the pace of space exploration. The idea is equivalent to that of the successful CubeSat format, with standardized off-the-shelf components and architecture to assemble small units that will be all compatible, modular, and inexpensive.
The rover class concept is being developed by Astrobotic Technology in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, and it is partly funded by NASA awards. The Principal Investigator of the program is Andrew Horchler. In June 2019, Astrobotic Technology was awarded USD 79.5 million to carry 14 payloads to the moon including a CubeRover in July 2021. This would make Carnegie Mellon University the first university in the world to fully develop a lunar rover.
The idea is to create a practical modular concept similar that used for CubeSats and apply it to rovers, effectively creating a new standardized architecture of small modular planetary rovers with compatible parts, systems, and even instruments so that each mission can be easily tailored to its objectives. The rovers are expendable and do not use solar arrays for electrical power, depending solely on non-rechargeable batteries. This allows it to be lighter, have a larger cooling radiator panel for electronics, and have a simpler avionics design.
The CubeRover program intends that standardizing small rover design with a common architecture will open access to planetary bodies for companies, governments, and universities around the world at a low cost, while increasing functionality, just as the CubeSat has in Earth orbit. This would motivate other members of the space exploration community to develop new systems and instruments that are all compatible with the CubeRover's architecture.
|Mission type||Technology demonstrator|
|Operator||Astrobotic Lab and Carnegie Mellon University|
|Spacecraft type||Robotic lunar rover|
|Manufacturer||Planetary Robotics Lab|
|Dry mass||33 kg (73 lb)|
|Dimensions||Height: 103 cm |
|Power||100 W from 0.5 m2 solar panel|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||2021 on the Peregrine lander|
|Landing site||Planned: Lacus Mortis|
|Two cameras with 1936 × 1456 resolution|
In May 2017 Astrobotic Technology, in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, were selected by NASA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) to receive a $125,000 award to develop a small lunar rover architecture capable of performing small-scale science and exploration on the Moon and other planetary surfaces. During Phase I, the team built a 2-kg rover and performed engineering studies to determine the architecture of a novel chassis, power, computing systems, software and navigation techniques.
In March 2018, the team was awarded funds to move on to Phase II, and under this agreement, Astrobotic will produce a flight-ready rover with a mass of approximately 2 kg (4.4 lb) that will fly on Astrobotic's Peregrine lunar lander to the Moon in 2021.
In future missions, CubeRovers may be designed to take advantage of lander-based systems to shelter for the cold lunar night, that lasts for 14 Earth days. Similarly, future larger CubeRovers may be able to incorporate thermal insulation and systems qualified for ultra-low temperatures.
A spinoff company was created in 2018, called CubeRover, and it is based in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. Its President is Mike Provenzano. The company has support from Luxemburg and it is expected to collaborate with local universities and companies. It is hoped that it will become a hub for small planetary rover design, manufacture, and assembly, as well as a shop.
The first version to fly will be the Andy rover that has a mass of 33 kg (73 lb) and is 103 cm tall. It features four wheels and two high definition cameras; its maximum speed is 18 cm/sec.
- Astrobotic wins NASA award to produce small lunar rover. Lloyd Campbell, Spaceflight Insider. 18 March 2018.
- Carnegie Mellon Robot, Art Project To Land on Moon in 2021. Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute.
- This Tiny Private CubeRover Could Reach the Moon by 2020. Leonard David, Space.com. 16 March 2018.
- Astrobotic to develop CubeRover standard for planetary surface mobility. Kevin Jost, Autonomous Vehicle Technology. 8 May 2018.
- CubeRover – 2-kg Lunar Rover. Andrew Tallaksen's blog, lead systems engineer for CubeRover. 2018.
- "Moon Shot" Web Series Profiles GLXP Teams. Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute. April 25, 2016.
- Carnegie Mellon Unveils Lunar Rover "Andy". Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute. November 24, 2014.
- "Andy — CMU". CMU Planetary Robotics. Archived from the original on 2016-04-16. Retrieved 2019-09-08.
- Cuberover for Lunar Resource Site Evaluation. SBIR, US Government. Accessed on 8 December 2018.
- Astrobotic spins out CubeRover, opens offices in Luxembourg. Joe Latrell, Spaceflight Insider. 2 October 2018.
- Three American space startups to establish offices in Luxembourg. Jeff Foust, SpaceNews. 29 September 2018.
- CubeRover to develop low-cost, revolutionary rover in Luxembourg. Kerry Hebden, Asgardia. 8 October 2018.
- CubeRover official web site
- Astrobotic to Develop CubeRover Standard for Planetary Surface Mobility. Astrobotic Technology. Press release on 4 May 2017.
- CubeRover to Develop Next Generation Planetary Rovers in Luxembourg. Astrobotic Technology, press release on 27 September 2018.