CubeRover
Astrobotic's CubeRover
Mission typeTechnology demonstrator
OperatorAstrobotic Lab and Carnegie Mellon University
Websitewww.astrobotic.com
Spacecraft properties
SpacecraftIris[1][2]
Spacecraft typeRobotic lunar rover
BusCubeRover
Start of mission
Launch date8 January 2024 07:18:36 UTC
RocketVulcan Centaur VC2S
Launch siteCape Canaveral SLC-41
ContractorUnited Launch Alliance
Moon rover
Landing date23 February 2024 (originally planned)
Landing sitePlanned: Mons Gruithuisen Gamma
Transponders
BandWi-Fi
Instruments
Two cameras with 1936 × 1456 resolution
 

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.[3]

The rover class concept is being developed by Astrobotic Technology in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, and it is partly funded by NASA awards.[3] A Carnegie Mellon University initiative - completely independent of NASA awards - developed Iris, the first flightworthy CubeRover. It was launched on 8 January 2024 along with Peregrine Mission One.[4] Surface operations phased out along with landing of Peregrine lander due to excessive propellant leak.[5]

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.[3][6][7] 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.[8]

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.[6] 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.[3][6]

Development

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,[3][6] and under this agreement, Astrobotic and CMU were to produce a flight-ready rover with a mass of approximately 2 kg (4.4 lb).

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.[6] Similarly, future larger CubeRovers may be able to incorporate thermal insulation and systems qualified for ultra-low temperatures.[6]

References

  1. ^ "Iris Lunar Rover". Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute.
  2. ^ Carnegie Mellon Unveils Lunar Rover "Iris". Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute.
  3. ^ a b c d e Campbell, Lloyd (18 March 2018). "Astrobotic wins NASA award to produce small lunar rover". Spaceflight Insider. Archived from the original on 2019-08-14.
  4. ^ Belam, Martin (2024-01-08). "Nasa Peregrine 1 launch: Vulcan Centaur rocket carrying Nasa moon lander lifts off in Florida – live updates". the Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2024-01-08.
  5. ^ Fisher, Jackie Wattles, Kristin (2024-01-08). "Peregrine mission abandons Moon landing attempt after suffering 'critical' fuel loss". CNN. Retrieved 2024-01-09.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ a b c d e f Leonard, David (16 March 2018). "This Tiny Private CubeRover Could Reach the Moon by 2020". Space.com.
  7. ^ Jost, Kevin (8 May 2018). "Astrobotic to develop CubeRover standard for planetary surface mobility". Autonomous Vehicle Technology. Archived from the original on December 9, 2018.
  8. ^ CubeRover – 2-kg Lunar Rover. Andrew Tallaksen's blog, lead systems engineer for CubeRover. 2018.
  9. ^ Cuberover for Lunar Resource Site Evaluation. SBIR, US Government. Accessed on 8 December 2018.