Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic is shooting for the moon and the $20 million Google Lunar X prize. It developed the solar-powered Griffin landing module and a smaller Red Rover wheeled explorer as one of a handful of entities hoping to win the prize. But Astrobotic developed the larger, heavier Polaris lunar rover to explore one of the moon's poles and to drill for water.
The Polaris rover, which when it lifts off aboard the Spacex Falcon 9 rocket will weigh about 518 pounds and carry sophisticated imaging equipment, carbon-fiber and composite material, other payload and a drill to search for the water that scientists believe is buried in the lunar surface.
Polaris has three vertical solar panels to generate 250W of power and two radiator panels to reject excess heat. Stereo cameras and laser are used to guide Polaris and generate 3-D video and models of the lunar surface. The robot communicates directly with Earth using a pointed S-band antenna to receive commands and send video and data. Polaris carries up to 175 lbs (80kg) of payload, such as a drill to take core samples and science instruments to identify water content. Polaris is capable of driving and avoiding obstacles autonomously including traverses into dark regions in the lunar pole’s long shadows. Polaris suspension includes raise and lower capability to vary chassis ground clearance to lower for drilling and raise for driving on rough terrain. The suspension maintains four-wheel ground contact over sloped and rocky lunar terrain without the use of springs. Surface operations are carefully preplanned to maintain unobstructed views of the sun for power and the earth for communication.