2021 Reflection

The MoonRanger A-team invested a quarter century of effort in 2021. The impressive accomplishments positioned MoonRanger for successful build, test and delivery in 2022. 2021 highlights included:  


  • Crafted the composite flight chassis
  • Machined some flight components at CMU
  • Procured sensors, devices, actuators, and other flight components
  • Documented assembly procedure
  • Built a device for precision testing of bolted joints and established standards for robot assembly
  • Built a flight-like solar array and co-populated that with solar cell vendor
  • Built and tested a flight-like wheel module
  • Created a flatsat that connected flight avionics
  • Designed printed circuit boards and prototyped and tested some first versions
  • Printed a full-size dimensionally correct 3D model of MoonRanger for crafting and fitting the MLI
  • Determined camera lens characteristics and relative camera positioning
  • Developed a mount that positions the cameras, lenses, camera electronics and sun glare shroud
  • Developed ‘Terrammule’ as a moon-weight equivalent for MoonRanger-equivalent mobility testing


  • Wrote over 750 commits and 25,000 lines of flight code
  • Selected and implemented NASA Core Flight System (cFS) as a flight code backbone
  • Designed and implemented inter-process communication in cFS
  • Progressed significantly with Mission Control Software
  • Programmed embedded motor control
  • Designed health monitoring and communication protocols
  • Exhibited terrain model fusion and rover planning
  • Created and characterized performance of slip-compensating state estimation
  • Solved challenges of perception in darkness
  • Simulated rover in an extensive lunar environment with realistic sensing


  • Produced hundreds of flight hardware drawings
  • Designed compact avionics module
  • Mapped all electrical connections among components as basis for harness implementation
  • Mapped rover’s wire harnessing… twice


  • Used ‘Terramule’ to perform a moon-like mobility evaluation test campaign
  • Characterized visible terrain in lunar lighting
  • Conducted numerous vibe tests
  • Tested thermal conduction in vacuum
  • Verified vacuum, thermal, and vibration survivability of perception hardware

Reviews and Operations

  • Passed Critical Design Review
  • Resolved lander power interface challenges
  • Built and certified a cleanroom
  • Conducted paper missions with mission control software
  • Created global path planning of ice targets on Slope/Ice/Combined Maps
  • Prepared flight phase statement of work and budget proposal with cost tracking of current budget phase
  • Automated/streamlined required systems processes and documents for final acceptance review
  • Advanced lander, payload, and internal interface control documents for integration
  • Instituted more realistic and resilient scheduling including final integration and test campaign
  • Captured initial lessons learned from the first autonomous lunar microrover program for future missions