Japanese space race team Hakuto recently unveiled its lunar rover design for Google sponsored Lunar XPRIZE, an unprecedented competition to challenge engineers, entrepreneurs and innovators from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. The race will feature 16 teams from countries including Israel, the United States, Italy, Malaysia, Japan, Germany, Hungary, Brazil, Canada, Chile and India.
To win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a privately funded team must be the first to successfully place a spacecraft on the moon, travel 500 meters and transmit high-definition video and images back to Earth by the end of 2017. First prize is $20 million. Hakuto’s approach to the challenge was to create a “Dual Rover” system consisting of two-wheeled “Tetris” and four-wheeled “Moonraker.” The two rovers are linked by a tether, so that Tetris can be lowered into a suspected skylight.
The team was able to keep the rover lightweight by using carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) composites. Back in July, Toray was named a “supporting company” to Hakuto, providing the carbon fiber the team would need to form the structure of the rover. According to the team’s XPRIZE profile page, the CFRP was autoclave-molded.
Ltd. RDS provided the resin, known as Ultem, for the rover as well as cutting edge 3D printing technology. Hakuto picked for the resin for its “excellent material in heat resistance and strength.” In total, the rover is 58 centimeters long, 36 centimeters high and weighs just 4 kg.
“Launching the rover cost more than $1 million per kilogram. Therefore, mass is an important consideration,” the team said in a video describing the design.
The rover’s wheels made with thermal insulation material to prevent the extreme heat and cold of the lunar surface. It also features hyperbolic mirror camera system on Moonraker enables it to capture 360-degree images.
For more information on the Hakuto rover, check out the video below: