Astrobotic’s CubeRover will try to survive the lunar night – TechCrunch

Based in Pittsburgh Astrobotic will send its CubeRover platform to the moon under a new award from NASA. The company will use CubeRover to test technologies for surviving lunar nights and communicating over longer distances on the lunar surface.

Surviving the Moon’s night is more complicated than one might think. Nights on the moon are long – up to 14 days of darkness at a time – and cold, with temperatures dropping below -200 degrees Fahrenheit. Low temperatures are a major threat to power components like batteries and effectively stopped many moon missions before they could begin.

That’s a big deal for NASA, which has ambitions to carry out lengthy missions to the Moon with unmanned landers and submersibles for the rest of the decade. Ultimately, the space agency intends to establish a permanent presence on the moon through Artemis program. But to do that, the thermal systems will need to operate around the clock.

To solve this problem, CubeRover will be testing thermal systems capable of surviving in prolonged darkness and extremely low temperatures. Astrobotic will also demonstrate the technology, which it is developing as part of a subcontract with Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc. aboard the Peregrine and Griffin landing ships.

CubeRover will also demonstrate the ability to communicate with satellite relay systems. Many current rovers rely on host landers to act as relays to communicate with Earth, using existing protocols such as Long Term Evolution (LTE). But such systems depend on a continuous line of sight between the navigator and the lander. That places a big limit on how far the mover can travel.

“This mission has the potential to usher in a new era of powerful lunar robotics where instruments and payloads can last for months,” said Mike Provenzano, Astrobotic’s director of lunar surface systems. to even annually on the surface of the Moon”. “CubeRover will outlast and fly further than any lunar probe in its class with this flight, taking Astrobotic a major step forward in opening the Moon to sustain long-term robotic operations. .”

The contract was funded through NASA’s Sequential Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The space agency’s SBIR program is designed to fund small businesses, entrepreneurs and research programs, and it has three phases; the third and final stages provide an opportunity for awardees to commercialize their technology with NASA or in the private sector. Astrobotic does not disclose the amount of the prize.

Two Astrobotic landers will also go to the moon under contract with NASA. Peregrine will go to the moon this year under a $79.5 million Commercial Lunar Payload Service (CLPS) program award; a larger lander, Griffin, will send a NASA probe called VIPER to the moon in 2024, also under the CLPS program. The mission was originally scheduled to launch in 2023, but agency announced in July it was delayed by a year due to the requirement of more testing on the lander.

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