The concept of a lunar rover that an industry consortium led by Northrop Grumman plans to create for NASA’s Artemis program has been revealed. Northrop Grumman stated on November 16 that it is collaborating with four other firms to submit a lunar rover to NASA, ranging from the commercial lunar lander builder to a tire producer.
According to Rick Mastracchio, who serves as the director in charge of the business development for the human space at the Northrop Grumman company and a former NASA astronaut, “together with our collaborators, we are offering NASA with a vehicle concept that will considerably expand and improve human and robotic study of lunar surface and further permit a sustained human habitation on the moon and eventually Mars.”
Northrop would be in charge of the projected rover’s development, drawing on its experience with numerous spacecraft projects. Among its collaborators is Intuitive Machines, which will create the Nova-D lander, an enhanced version of the Nova-C lander, to carry the rover to the lunar surface. Lunar Outpost, which is working on a small robotic rover named MAPP that will launch to the moon in 2022 on a Nova-C lander, will use its knowledge of that rover to this mission.
Companies from the automobile industry are also represented on the team. AVL, a business that specializes in vehicle development, simulation, and testing, will contribute knowledge in the areas of electric vehicles and self-driving technologies. The tire company Michelin will give the rover an “airless tire option.”
Only a few technical data regarding the rover were disclosed by the companies. It does expect the rover to be driven by astronauts as well as controlled remotely, and to last up to ten years. The size of the rover was not revealed, although the Nova-D lander is intended to transport payloads of a maximum of 500 kilos to the lunar surface.
The Northrop Grumman Corporation isn’t the first corporation to declare ambitions for a lunar rover. Lockheed Martin and General Motors established a collaboration in May to work on the architecture of the Artemis lunar rover. For the rover concept, which is still in its early phases, the businesses claimed they would combine Lockheed’s competence in space systems with GM’s strengths in electric cars and autonomy.
However, it’s uncertain whether NASA will choose Northrop’s or another design as an unpressurized rover to accompany Artemis missions. NASA sent a request for information in August, asking for feedback on a lunar terrain vehicle (LTV). NASA was especially interested in how corporations could construct rovers that could last a long time on the moon, operate for up to ten years, and be carried to the lunar surface. It also requested that companies explore offering the landers to the NASA Agency as the commercial service.