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.[1]

The rover class concept is being developed by Astrobotic Technology in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, and it is partly funded by NASA awards.[1] 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.[2] This would make Carnegie Mellon University the first university in the world to fully develop a lunar rover.[2]

Overview

Concept

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.[1][3][4] 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.[5]

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.[3] 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.[1][3]

Development

Andy
Mission typeTechnology demonstrator
OperatorAstrobotic Lab and Carnegie Mellon University
Websitewww.astrobotic.com
Spacecraft properties
SpacecraftAndy[6][7]
Spacecraft typeRobotic lunar rover
BusCubeRover
ManufacturerPlanetary Robotics Lab[8]
Dry mass33 kg (73 lb)[8]
DimensionsHeight: 103 cm [8]
Power100 W from 0.5 m2 solar panel[8]
Start of mission
Launch date2021 on the Peregrine lander[2]
RocketAtlas V
Moon rover
Landing sitePlanned: Lacus Mortis
Transponders
BandWi-Fi
Instruments
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[9] 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,[1][3] 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.[2]

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.[3] Similarly, future larger CubeRovers may be able to incorporate thermal insulation and systems qualified for ultra-low temperatures.[3]

A spinoff company was created in 2018, called CubeRover, and it is based in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg.[10] Its President is Mike Provenzano. The company has support from Luxemburg and it is expected to collaborate with local universities and companies.[11][12] 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.[8]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Astrobotic wins NASA award to produce small lunar rover. Lloyd Campbell, Spaceflight Insider. 18 March 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Carnegie Mellon Robot, Art Project To Land on Moon in 2021. Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute.
  3. ^ a b c d e f This Tiny Private CubeRover Could Reach the Moon by 2020. Leonard David, Space.com. 16 March 2018.
  4. ^ Astrobotic to develop CubeRover standard for planetary surface mobility. Kevin Jost, Autonomous Vehicle Technology. 8 May 2018.
  5. ^ CubeRover – 2-kg Lunar Rover. Andrew Tallaksen's blog, lead systems engineer for CubeRover. 2018.
  6. ^ "Moon Shot" Web Series Profiles GLXP Teams. Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute. April 25, 2016.
  7. ^ Carnegie Mellon Unveils Lunar Rover "Andy". Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute. November 24, 2014.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Andy — CMU". CMU Planetary Robotics. Archived from the original on 2016-04-16. Retrieved 2019-09-08.
  9. ^ Cuberover for Lunar Resource Site Evaluation. SBIR, US Government. Accessed on 8 December 2018.
  10. ^ Astrobotic spins out CubeRover, opens offices in Luxembourg. Joe Latrell, Spaceflight Insider. 2 October 2018.
  11. ^ Three American space startups to establish offices in Luxembourg. Jeff Foust, SpaceNews. 29 September 2018.
  12. ^ CubeRover to develop low-cost, revolutionary rover in Luxembourg. Kerry Hebden, Asgardia. 8 October 2018.

External links

  • 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.