Astrobotic Technology Inc., in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, announces $375,000 in contract awards through NASA’s Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. The three proposals will develop sensing and navigation technologies to expand capability for resource exploration on and under the surface of the Moon, Mars, and other planetary bodies.

Summaries of the three proposals are included below.

Long-Range Terrain Characterization for Productive Regolith Excavation will develop sensors and software to precisely detect the location of minerals in lunar soil. This technology is critical to securing the resources needed for deep-space exploration and future habitats on the Moon and other planetary bodies.

Perception and Navigation for Exploration of Shadowed Domains will develop imaging technology that uses visual cameras, Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), and thermal cameras to perceive, localize, and map a robot’s surroundings. The technology will produce detailed 3D models that can be used for navigation in shadowed craters at the poles of the Moon.

Subsurface Prospecting by Planetary Drones will develop navigation and perception technology to enable flying robots to explore caves, pits, and other complicated topography without communication back to Earth. This research develops the technology to explore, map, and model without support from Earth.

“Water, minerals, and volatiles are critical resources for exploration of the solar system, but they are trapped in rugged, dark, and remote terrain,” said Kevin Peterson, Astrobotic’s Chief Technology Officer. “The technology we are developing in this research will enable robots to robustly search and explore dark and dangerous environments.”

According to Dr. William “Red” Whittaker, Astrobotic’s Chairman and Chief Science Officer, “Today’s robots are great at driving on the surfaces of planets, but they cannot reach or explore the caves that lie below.  These caves are important because they could protect explorers from radiation, meteorites, and extreme temperatures on the surface. We will develop technology to guide flying robots into steep, confined underground spaces where traditional robots cannot tread”.

NASA’s STTR program funds research, development, and demonstration of innovative technologies to support NASA’s future missions. Each proposal secured by Astrobotic and Carnegie Mellon is valued at $125,000.

About Astrobotic

Astrobotic Technology Inc. is a lunar logistics company that delivers payloads to the Moon for companies, governments, universities, non-profits and individuals. Astrobotic’s spacecraft accommodates multiple customers on a single flight, offering flexibility at an industry-defining low price. Astrobotic is a NASA contractor and an official partner with NASA on the Lunar CATALYST program.

With its partner, Carnegie Mellon University, Astrobotic is pursuing the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE. Astrobotic was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA.

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