3D Model for Sewing MoonRanger Insulative Blanket

Figure 1. The 3D-printed MoonRanger look-alike that will be used as a form around which the robot’s multi-layer insulation ‘blanket’ will be ‘sewn’.

Despite freezing shadows on the Moon, rover batteries and electronics have to remain at a moderate operating temperature. This is like a human maintaining internal body temperature at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit in the cold here on Earth. We achieve this in large part by dressing in warm insulating clothes like coats, gloves and socks. MoonRanger’s body will be protected in the same way by ‘clothing’ it in a gold-colored, highly-insulative ‘coat’ made of light, flexible material called multi-layered insulation (MLI).

The MLI has to be finely tailored to cover the robot’s complex chassis while leaving openings for camera cutouts and wheel struts. Tailoring an MLI ‘blanket’ is as much art as technology. To have high confidence in the fit, our approach is to pre ‘sew’ the MLI blanket around a 3D printed MoonRanger model that acts as a mannequin dress form of the type used to sew a dress. Done right, the MLI blanket will fit perfectly the first time without need for alterations.

Figure 2: Four ‘sleeves’ in the blanket wrap around MoonRanger’s four wheel struts. These sleeves keep MoonRanger’s wheel struts and motor warm like sleeves that keep a child’s arms and legs warm in a snowsuit. These sleeves require fine tailoring that is facilitated by the 3D model. 

Left: Wheel strut area to be covered has been colored yellow.

Right: Demonstration of gold-colored insulating MLI on the look-alike.