Astrobotic Selected for NASA Small Business Award to Develop Lunar CubeRover


Astrobotic Technology has been selected for a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contract to develop a new class of rover to evaluate conditions on the lunar surface.

“The proposed innovation is a Lunar CubeRover specialized as a 2 kg payload to evaluate lander ejecta and to characterize small-rover trafficability,” the proposal states. “This CubeRover and its roles are specific to the RFP though broadly more general and impactful for exploration enterprise.

“The proposal offers the prospect for standardization, democratization and broad applicability of CubeRover analogous to the way that CubeSats transformed the domain of Earth orbit and SmallSat enterprise,” the proposal adds.

SBIR Phase I awards are worth a maximum of $125,000 over six months.

A summary of the selected proposal follows.

Proposal Title: CubeRover for Lunar Resource Site Evaluation
Subtopic Title: Lunar Resources

Small Business Concern
Astrobotic Technology, Inc.
Pittsburgh, PA

Principal Investigator/Project Manager
Dr. Andrew Horchler
Pittsburgh, PA

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 5

Technical Abstract

The proposed innovation is a Lunar CubeRover specialized as a 2 kg payload to evaluate lander ejecta and to characterize small-rover trafficability. This CubeRover and its roles are specific to the RFP though broadly more general and impactful for exploration enterprise.

The proposal offers the prospect for standardization, democratization and broad applicability of CubeRover analogous to the way that CubeSats transformed the domain of Earth orbit and SmallSat enterprise.

For the specific context of this proposal, CubeRover is specialized to address III-C-2 In-situ Lunar Surface Trafficability (topic III-C-2) and Descent Engine Blast Ejecta Phenomena (topic III-D-4).

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

CubeRover opens the prospect for a class of light, affordable, frequent and standardized planetary surface deployments. This is transformational in its own right.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

A substantial commercial movement is evolving to layer robotics over hobby-grade remote control. This is a high demand for the automation capabilities that are proposed here using minimal assets like fixed monocular camera, limited computing and small-scale, low-powered platforms. The terrain modeling is highly relevant to non-NASA applications as encountered in nuclear waste cleanup,

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Robotics (see also Control & Monitoring; Sensors)
  • Vehicles (see also Autonomous Systems)

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