Astrobotic Develops Mobility Testbed for Lunar Rover

PITTSBURGH (Astrobotic PR) — Astrobotic’s rover development group at Carnegie Mellon University is developing the Mobility Testbed – a rover to facilitate testing representative of the rover that will fly on Astrobotic’s mission to the Moon’s Lacus Mortis region.

The Mobility Testbed has the same mobility configuration as the “protoflight” rover that will undergo environmental testing during the Milestone Prize Accomplishment Round but is constructed primarily out of terrestrial-grade components and materials. This reduces cost and lead times while maintaining the physical attributes needed to conduct mobility tests representative of the eventual flight article.

Most recently, the team has integrated hardware modifications such as improved motor controllers, main computers, functional test radios, and an all-new avionics bay. Recent software modifications include implementing an SPI motor library, UART communications, a specialized motor state machine, and a custom operator interface. These modifications make the Mobility Testbed analogous to both the protoflight and flight rovers in hardware as well as software.

After integrating these modifications, the team conducted a 100-meter drive test to verify and exercise functionality. The rover was teleoperated via radio from a fixed command station and drove 120 yards along the sideline of an American football field with an average speed of 2.5 cm/s, exceeding its 100-meter goal by 10%. This traverse was completed without incident as expected. The rover never halted and needed only minor manual course corrections.

This drive test of the Mobility Testbed required rapid development of the team’s Milestone Prize hardware and validated the overall design by demonstrating successful driving operations and maneuvers, including the ability to surmount or circumvent obstacles.

It also paved the way for several next steps, including future drive tests that will incorporate different motor shield voltages and increased driving and operating speeds; and integration of the onboard camera with the onboard power system. Current development is focused on improving the Mobility Testbed’s chassis, suspension, and wheels to better match those of the protoflight and flight rovers.

The next testing milestone will be a 500-meter traverse to validate distance verification techniques, targeted for completion in late April 2014.

Parabolic Arc is on Facebook and Twitter.

For all the latest space news,
please follow Parabolic Arc on Facebook and Twitter.