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Towards an Autonomous Micro Rover with Night Survivability for Lunar Exploration

Benjamin Hülsen; Niklas A. Mulsow; Adam Dabrowski; Wiebke Brinkmann; Joel Gützlaff; Leon Spies; Markus Czupalla; Frank Kirchner
In: 74th International Astronautical Congress 2023. International Astronautical Congress (IAC-2023), October 2-6, Baku, Azerbaijan, International Astronautical Federation (IAF), 10/2023.


In Europe, efforts are underway to develop key technologies that can be used to explore the Moon and to exploit the resources available. This includes technologies for in-situ resource utilization (ISRU), facilitating the possibility of a future Moon Village. The Moon is the next step for humans and robots to exploit the use of available resources for longer term missions, but also for further exploration of the solar system. A challenge for effective exploration missions is to achieve a compact and lightweight robot to reduce launch costs and open up the possibility of secondary payload options. Current micro rover concepts are primarily designed to last for one day of solar illumination and show a low level of autonomy. Extending the lifetime of the system by enabling survival of the lunar night and implementing a high level of autonomy will significantly increase potential mission applications and the operational range. As a reference mission, the deployment of a micro rover in the equatorial region of the Moon is being considered. An overview of mission parameters and a detailed example mission sequence is given in this paper. The mission parameters are based on an in-depth study of current space agency roadmaps, scientific goals, and upcoming flight opportunities. Furthermore, concepts of the ongoing international micro rover developments are analyzed along with technology solutions identified for survival of lunar nights and a high system autonomy. The results provide a basis of a concise requirements set-up to allow dedicated system developments and qualification measures in the future.