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The third prototype rover from the Astrobotic Technology team recently gained a mock camera and antenna head, making it nearly complete and ready for high-end photography. Yesterday it was posed in front of a green screen so that it can later be combined via Photoshop in combination with actual Apollo surface imagery and a rendering of the new design for the Astrobotic spacecraft / lander.
The overriding technical challenge of operating a rover near the Moon's equator is the intense, prolonged heat produced by solar radiation and the hot regolith over which the rover travels. All powered equipment inside the robot generates its own heat as well, which must be routed to the radiator for release into space. In the photo below, the team has a key composite part sealed in vacuum to achieve better bonding of the layers. This part, the motor strap, connects the heat-generating 28v brushless motor to other high-conductivity composite straps leading up to the radiator.
The third prototype lunar robot developed by the Astrobotic team has been crowned by a mock camera/antenna head, completing its overall look. The unit was robotically machined to perfect the team's skills in creating the foam molds over which carbon fiber will be laid up to build the actual camera and antenna housings. The horizontal section will house two wide-field cameras with a telephoto zoom between them. The white top of this unit is a radiator to regulate internal temperatures. The dome will house an S-band "evolved" antenna.
February 28, 2010 - by Battery pack begins fabrication
The Astrobotic rover will carry a battery pack (273 Whr) to ensure power during the high-activity landing and also for the brief periods during roving when the solar panels won't be fully oriented toward the Sun. The team is fabricating a battery pack that straps the lithium ion cells to a main I-beam, which connects to the radiator to disperse heat. This image shows the top piece of an aluminum mold for the battery pack over which a carbon-fiber structure will be built up.
February 23, 2010 - by Tiny IMU begins Astrobotic testing
The Astrobotic team has initiated testing of an experimental inertial measurement unit (IMU) loaned from Intel Labs. (IMUs measure a spacecraft's velocity, orientation and gravitational forces.) The tiny device provides six degree of freedom orientation data, utilizing a bluetooth wireless connection to a host computer. It contains three accelerometers, three gyroscopes, three magnetometers, and a microprocessor. The 9.8 gram IMU runs for six hours on a single charge.
For the Astrobotic rover to survive hibernation during the lunar night's cryogenic cold, the team must find commercial components that perform to extremes far beyond their published spec sheets. This week an Asus netbook entered the cryo-freezer to see if its Intel Atom processor would bounce back from the ordeal. (See photos below)
NASA’s top education official has noted an important upside to the agency’s revolutionary new budget. Because the new plan fosters entrepreneurial exploration projects, young professionals at these new space companies will take leadership roles far earlier in their careers than they would at old-line aerospace companies. Dr. Joyce Winterton, the agency’s assistant administrator for education, made the comment yesterday at a meeting of the education and public outreach advisory committee of the NASA Advisory Council attended by Astrobotic Technology.
February 15, 2010 - by Demonstrating 3D views of the Moon
The Astrobotic team won "best in show" at the the Society of Women Engineers' Showcase Feb. 15 at Carnegie Mellon's University Center, distributing custom red-cyan glasses to that visitors could enjoy stereo images from the Apollo program -- demonstrating the vivid imagery that will be returned by the Astrobotic lunar rover expedition.
February 13, 2010 - by Motorizing the third prototype
The Astrobotic approach to lunar mobility places the two drive motors in the main rover body where they are protected from dust and from the boiling heat of noontime lunar temperatures. By contrast, Mars rovers and some NASA-designed lunar rover prototypes have motors in each wheel hub, which is not practical for equatorial missions on the Moon. This image shows the exterior of the prototype and two tubes extending down to the front and back right wheels -- a chain drive from the shoulder motor powers the wheels.
The ground floor of the new Gates-Hillman Center for Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon is devoted to the 5,000 square foot Planetary Robotics Lab. The PRL includes a 3,000 square foot high bay with computer controlled crane for engineering and experimentation, along with workrooms for fabrication of robots and their components. While the Gates-Hillman building was opened for most uses in fall 2009, move-in to the PRL took place last week as the last of the construction company gear and furniture staging areas cleared out.

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