Lunar Robots Try to Survive a Night on the Moon
Sending robots to the moon has become a routine part of space exploration, with innovators worldwide developing these rovers for monitoring and exploring the lunar surface. There is one aspect, however, that still proves challenging – surviving a lunar night.
Nights on the moon are arduous, long, and cold, with temperatures often dropping to below 392 degrees, and sometimes lasting up to two weeks. These conditions can easily damage sensitive components of a device or rover, such as its batteries or other electronic elements. To combat this, NASA has established a new program to develop and test lunar night survival technologies, with Astrobotic providing its CubeRover platform for the job.
The platform acts as a means of transportation for these lunar systems, and also provides consistent power and bandwidth. According to Astrobotic’s website, CubeRover contains “all the subsystems necessary to provide payloads with mobility, power, communications and protection from the lunar thermal environment”.
In the project, CubeRover will be testing thermal systems designed to withstand extreme cold and extended periods of darkness. One of these technologies will be from Astrobotic itself, having been subcontracted by Advanced Cooling Technologies on a separate NASA program to develop, integrate and demonstrate lunar night thermal systems aboard lunar rovers and landers.
In addition to testing the durability of lunar technologies, CubeRover will be used to test communication capacity on the moon, using satellite communication relays to extend network range.
”This mission has the potential to usher in a new era of robust lunar robotics where instruments and payloads can survive months to even years on the Moon’s surface,” said Mike Provenzano, Astrobotic’s director of lunar surface systems. “CubeRover will survive longer and drive farther than any lunar rover in its class with this flight, taking Astrobotic a major step forward in opening the Moon to sustained long-term robotic operations.”
Two of Astrobotic’s landers, Griffin and Peregrine, will also be heading to the moon under contracts with NASA, with an anticipated launch date of 2024.
All of the projects are funded through NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Sequential Phase II program.