Rocket City Space Pioneers Eyeing Lunar Hopper Design

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The Rocket City Space Pioneers (RCSP), the Huntsville, Ala.-based team vying for the Google Lunar X Prize, is taking a close look at Draper Laboratory’s lunar hopper design as a possible backup capability for the team’s robotic rover mission.

RCSP is one of 29 teams competing to claim the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize by becoming the first to land on the Moon, travel at least 500 meters and send back data.

Draper Laboratory is one the few RCSP team members not based in Alabama. The Cambridge, Mass.-based research and development lab’s primary contribution to the RCSP effort to date has been its guidance-and-navigation expertise.

But according to a June 20 blog post on the Google Lunar X Prize website, the lunar hopper concept Draper Laboratory has been refining as part of its contribution to Next Giant Leap’s rival effort could be incorporated into RCSP’s lander as a backup capability.

“RCSP recently elected to assess the technology developed by teammate Draper Laboratory that could allow the landing vehicle to travel the entire distance needed to win the competition in a single “hop” if the rover finds itself unable to drive,” Draper Laboratory’s Pete Pacely and Bobby Cohanim wrote.

“We recognize that the ability to hop is already built into our lander. With some additional guidance, navigation, and control software, and a few kilograms of extra fuel, we can use the lander to provide mobility by repurposing it as a hopper. This provides a way for landing and mobility combined in one platform, which is of great benefit to the team and gives us a better chance of winning the prize.”