Astrobotic ships its ultralight shoebox-sized rover to NASA for testing

Astrobotic has shipped to NASA the CubeRover it developed in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, the company has announced. This marks the completion of the second phase of NASA’s SBIR contract with the company, which was tasked with developing a lightweight rover capable of traveling alongside various lunar landers. Among other things, the rover is very compact and weighs only around five pounds.

Last October, Astrobotic was awarded a $2 million contract from NASA, funds that were intended to finish work on the CubeRover and bring the line of rovers to market. At the time of the announcement, Astrobotic said that its CubeRover will be sent to the Moon on the Peregrine lunar lander as part of the company’s flagship mission next year.

CubeRover is described as an incredibly light rover designed for space missions; it is only around the size of a shoebox and can be used for various purposes, including as teams of small rovers to scout out locations, as well as small vehicles for carrying similarly small payloads. Astrobotic explains that the rover’s small size and light weight will make it cheaper for commercial customers to access the Moon’s surface.

The contract was awarded under NASA’s Tipping Point program, which offers funding for technologies that are, as the name suggests, at their ‘tipping point’ toward completion. NASA quite obviously has an interest in using the CubeRover as part of its Artemis lunar program.

The funds under the contract were used to give the CubeRover a lighter AWD system, more solar panels for charging, as well as standardized interfaces to ensure the rover can be used with many different types of payloads and landers. In the most recent update on this work, Astrobotic announced that it has delivered CubeRover to the Kennedy Space Center, which will test various aspects of the design using a simulated environment covered in fake Moon dust.

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