Hakuto Unveils Its Rovers In The Google Space Race

Team Hakuto has released the specifications for their entry in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, two moon rovers named “Moonraker” and “Tetris”.

AsianScientist (Oct. 9, 2014) – Hakuto, the Japanese team competing for the US$30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, has announced new pre-flight models of its two moon exploration rovers: four wheeled “Moonraker” and two wheeled “Tetris.”

The Google Lunar XPRIZE is an international competition challenging privately funded teams to successfully land a spacecraft on the lunar surface that travels at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and imagery back to earth. Hakuto has developed a small and lightweight dual rover system to fulfill the requirements of the Google Lunar XPRIZE and, for the first time, explore caves beneath the lunar surface.

By conducting several experiments to prove the rovers’ performance in the space environment, Hakuto is currently aiming to win one of the Google Lunar XPRIZE Milestone Prizes for mobility. The Google Lunar XPRIZE introduced Milestone Prizes worth a total of US$6 million to recognize technological achievements and associated financial hurdles faced by the teams as they prepare their lunar spacecraft for the largest international incentive prize of all time. Hakuto is one of five teams selected to compete for the Milestone Prizes.

The lunar environment is extreme with surface temperatures ranging from below -150℃ to above 100℃. As part of the Milestone judging process, Hakuto will conduct thermal vacuum testing to prove that the rover can perform the mission in these harsh conditions. All testing will take place under the scrutiny of the Google Lunar XPRIZE judging panel.

Hakuto’s rovers must be able to move more than 500 meters on the moon’s surface, which is covered in fine, abrasive sand known as regolith, while keeping away from craters and rocks. Hakuto has developed wheels that can run over this soft terrain and will demonstrate this capability during the field tests.

In addition to competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE, Hakuto will send two rovers to the moon to explore a lunar lava tube for the first time. In 2009, Japan’s lunar exploration satellite, “Kaguya” (Selene), discovered holes that are thought to be caves or “skylights” into underlying lava tubes.

The two-wheeled “Tetris,” connected by a tether to the four wheeled “Moonraker,” will be lowered down through a hole on the surface to explore the caves underneath. These lava tubes could prove to be very important scientifically as they could help explain the moon’s volcanic past. They could also become candidate sites for long-term habitats able to shield humans from the moon’s hostile environment.

The rovers’ bodies incorporate strong, lightweight, autoclave-molded carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) materials, which are commonly used in aircrafts and rockets. Design and production of the rover bodies have been carried out by Japanese company, RDS Inc., Hakuto’s official partner. Since the launch cost increases according to mass, Hakuto has utilized Japanese expertise in downsizing, while also incorporating many off-the-shelf commercial products to keep costs to a minimum.

Hakuto has selected a hyperbolic mirror camera system to become the “eye” of Moonraker, which will capture high-definition, 360-degree images of the lunar surface and transmit them back to earth as part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE “Mooncasts.” Data from the panoramic camera and other sensors will also be used by the rover in Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) to identify its surrounding environment and estimate its own position.


Source: Hakuto.
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