Thermal Vacuum Testing

Thermal vacuum testing of components and assemblies is essential during the design, prototyping, and pre-integration of a Moon rover to ensure that its electronics and materials will operate at the pole of the Moon, where temperatures can swing 250 degrees from hot to cold, but electronic temperatures must be moderate. This requires a chamber that … Continued

Localizing MoonRanger

Localization makes a best estimate of a robot’s position by fusing data from wheel encoders, inertial measurement unit, sun compass, and camera images (visual odometry). These four sources are fused into a best estimate by combining them with an Extended Kalman Filter (EKF). Unlike Earth, this is done for the Moon without GPS. The estimate … Continued

Active Thermal Management

The rover must actively regulate its interior temperature while polar surface temperatures vary by 250 degrees and solar-electric power generation varies from zero to 70 watts. Although the rover has impressive passive thermal regulation, it could not possibly maintain its electronics at the even, moderate operating temperatures without (1) determining the temperatures of its electronic … Continued

Testing MoonRanger’s Wireless Communication

All commands reach MoonRanger from Earth, and MoonRanger’s exploration data is conveyed back to Earth after WiFi relay through its lander. This WiFi is absolutely essential to mission success. The capability is achieved by a custom circuit board developed around the CC3200 WiFi chip. The board has a pair of selectable antenna ports that selectively … Continued

Thermal Safety during Occultation

Occultation means to hide or conceal from light.  In space these are most commonly due to partial or total eclipses.  During MoonRanger’s mission, one occultation is expected to occur over 24 hours when a high, distant hilltop partially blocks light reaching the rover.  During this period the robot’s solar array only generates reduced power, and … Continued

Systems Engineering

Systems engineers are the ultimate cross-disciplinarians.  They are constantly applying their synergistic skills to synthesize information, manage integration, and understand enough of each subteam’s activity and status to cross-pollinate for system success. Systems engineering orchestrates the requirements, design, implementation, testing and verification that actualize and fly the MoonRanger mission.  Like conducting a symphony, systems engineering … Continued

Between a Moon Rock and a Hard Place

Imagine your favorite video game- perhaps it has nice greenery, trees, rocks and all of the small physical details that make it realistic. Simulation modeling for real-world application is not too different. Simulation modeling helps make a specific physical environment, in this case, the south pole of the Moon, available for testing on a computer. … Continued

Thermal Considerations of Polar Roving

On the south pole of the Moon, shadowed regions exhibit temperatures as cold as -210˚C and illuminated solar panels reach temperatures up to 70˚C. These extremes of cold and hot must be moderated from -10˚C to 35˚C  internally to ensure functionality of batteries and electronics. The technology, design and process to achieve this essential thermal … Continued

CryoShroud TVAC Addition: Achieving Space Temperatures on Earth

There is a great need within all space programs to evaluate electrical and mechanical hardware during operation under various thermal conditions. Analysis is a critical tool during the early design of hardware but verification via physical testing is crucial. Electronic boards and motors become non-operational at low temperatures so the demonstration of adequate heating systems … Continued

Stowage and Deployment

A rover mission has two landings. The first is when the lander reaches the surface, and the second is when the rover’s wheels touch the ground and roll away. These are preceded by the violent shaking of the launch that requires attachment to the lander to be stiff, strong and certain. Once on the Moon, … Continued