London, 26 July 2023.- Astrobotic announced on the 25th of July that the company won a $34.6M NASA Tipping Point partnership to demonstrate power transmission on the lunar surface. The award will result in a demonstration on the Moon called LunaGrid-Lite, which will transmit power from a lunar lander to a tethered rover.
It will be the first transmission of high voltage power across the lunar surface. During the demonstration, an Astrobotic 6U CubeRover will unreel 1 kilometre of cable from an Astrobotic lunar lander and receive the first high voltage power transmitted through a cable across the lunar surface. The demonstration will serve as a pilot for Astrobotic’s LunaGrid service, which will deliver commercial power service by the Watt to future customers on the lunar surface.
The full LunarGrid system will be a power generation and distribution service that could utilise the 20-meter Vertical Solar Array Technology (VSAT) currently being developed under another NASA contract at Astrobotic. In the demonstration the lander’s solar arrays will play the part of the VSAT in generating power. After the landing, a CubeRover carrying a spool of cable will egress from the lander and deploy the cable to the lunar surface. Finally, the system will transmit 1 kW of power from the lander’s solar arrays through the cable to the CubeRover. Sensors throughout the payload will characterise and verify the system’s performance.
“LunaGrid-Lite will pave the way for power generation and distribution services on the Moon, and change the game for lunar surface systems like landers, rovers, habitats, science suits, and in-situ resource utilization pilot plants,” said John Thornton, Astrobotic CEO. “With renewable, uninterrupted commercial power service, both crewed and robotic operations can be made sustainable for long-term operations.”
The 6U CubeRover will be delivered on an upcoming Astrobotic lander mission as early as 2026. It will push Astrobotic’s lunar power service past the commercial tipping point, by advancing three critical gap technologies: high voltage power converter, cable, and cable stowage and deployment system.
All major elements of LunarGrid are now funded, now Astrobotic plans to deploy the service before the end of the decade to begin serving the Artemis program, CLPS, international space agencies, and commercial businesses on the Moon.