CADRE Team Preps Flight Model for Thermal Testing
Engineers prepare a small rover – part of NASA's CADRE (Cooperative Autonomous Distributed Robotic Exploration) technology demonstration that's headed to the Moon – for testing in the thermal vacuum chamber behind them at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California in October 2023.
Slated to arrive at the Moon in spring 2024 as part of NASA's CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative, CADRE is designed to demonstrate that multiple robots can cooperate and explore together autonomously – without direct input from human mission controllers.
A trio of the miniature solar-powered rovers, each about the size of a carry-on suitcase, will explore the Moon as a team, communicating via radio with each other and a base station aboard a lunar lander. By taking simultaneous measurements from multiple locations, CADRE will also demonstrate how multirobot missions can record data impossible for a single robot to achieve – a tantalizing prospect for future missions.
The rover being tested is the first flight model to be completed. Thermal vacuum testing simulates the harsh environment the rovers will face on the journey to the Moon and on the lunar surface: All the air is pumped out of the chamber and the temperature is cycled to high and low extremes.
Figure A is another image of engineers preparing the flight model for thermal vacuum chamber testing.
JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages CADRE for the Game Changing Development program within NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. The technology demonstration will launch as a payload on the third lunar lander mission by Intuitive Machines, called IM-3, under the CLPS initiative, which is managed by NASA's Science Mission Directorate, also in Washington. The agency's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and its Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, have both supported the project. Motiv Space Systems designed and built key hardware elements at the company's Pasadena, California, facility. Clemson University in South Carolina contributed research in support of the project.