The battery destined to provide backup and surge power to the Astrobotic rover on the Moon is now in charge/discharge cycle tests. The tests will determine how well the battery pack (nine cells from hybrid-car battery firm A123) holds up in continuous use, including following the minus 180C of the lunar night.
April 23, 2010 - by Walk-in Oven Arrives at Planetary Robotics Lab
A walk-in oven for curing large composite pieces arrived this week at Carnegie Mellon's Planetary Robotics Lab. The oven is especially useful for the pieces that will make up the spacecraft-lander that delivers our robot to the lunar surface. The oven's floor includes two grooves for the wheels of the support cart that will hold large pieces in the 350-degree curing phase. The oven also will be used, at lower temperatures, for determining the highest operational temperature of batteries and electronic components.
April 21, 2010 - by Robot arm taps into calibration
A challenge in commanding a robot arm to carve up a target object with its router is precise understanding of where that object is located in "three space." The team recently developed a process to locate the plane of its angle table (the baseline surface upon which an object rests) using a piezoelectric "button" that is tapped several times to establish at least three points in space.
April 19, 2010 - by Lunar rovers on display at Carnegie Mellon
The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University celebrated its 30th anniversary last week with the ROBOT 30 exhibition, including two of the prototypes developed for exploring the Moon. Shown below is the third prototype, with its asymmetrical shape to catch the Sun on the "hot side" and a sloping radiator to radiate heat away to the Moon's black sky on the "cold side."
April 17, 2010 - by Participatory exploration presented to NASA-Battelle conference
Astrobotic Technology and its collaborators at Carnegie Mellon University are creating a series of Moon missions that open participation to the world in many innovative ways. President David Gump was invited to present a summary of these initiatives to a NASA-Battelle workshop April 13-15 in Columbus, OH. "Participatory Exploration" is a newly emphasized focus for NASA, and the workshop gathered experts from the space agency, industry and academia, as well as a flock of exceptional high-school students from area schools.
April 7, 2010 - by Battery parts assembled into final unit
April 3, 2010 - by Final parts created for battery pack
This week the final parts came together for the rover's battery pack. A robot arm machined sleeve end pieces and inter-cell connectors that will accommodate thermal expansion and contraction in order to maintain electrical contact. The photo above shows end units being machined by a robot arm with a router (visible at the top center).
March 31, 2010 - by Cooling strap for motor enters testing
Beating the boiling temperatures of the lunar day requires both good insulation to reject exterior radiation and an internal system to wick heat away from the electrically powered components that generate heat inside the robot.
March 28, 2010 - by Video update on the team's tech progress
The team is progressing on the new technologies to be incorporated in the third prototype, fabricating composite parts and putting components through deep-freeze tests, as shown in this new overview video.
March 26, 2010 - by Reporter Focuses on the Moon's #1 Technical Challenge
A reporter who visited CMU's Planetary Robotics Lab this week learned about the chief technical challenge of robotic lunar exploration: the heat. Roaming the Moon during the entire two-week daylight stretch is a tough job anywhere near the equator; solar radiation from above and heat radiating from the soil roasts a rover at 224 degrees Fahrenheit. Her story gives good insight into how Astrobotic and CMU have attacked the thermal challenge: