A $5.8m project is developing a wireless charging system that can be used on the Moon based on technology from WiBotic.
The contract with prime contractor Astrobotic is part of NASA’s ‘Tipping Point’ program to overcome challenges associated with charging robots on the lunar surface.
“For Wibotic this is an exciting time. We have had robots charging up using our technology in the air, underwater and now here we are in outer space. The reason why we are so excited is NASA has really stepped up their efforts in working with technology companies and startups,” said Ben Waters, CEO of WiBotic told eeNews Europe.
“NASA wants lunar night survival so they can test and explore as it can be as cold as 200ºF and can last for up to 14 days without sun so solar panels are not viable. Surviving regolith [Moon dust] is challenging as it can be finer than dust and works its way into connectors and its conductive so it wreaks havoc and causes robots to fail,” he said.
“Wireless charging is a great for this as you don’t have to be perfectly aligned, and that works as there’s a lot of uneven surfaces,” he said.
Using wireless charging on Astrobotic’s CubeRover is the first project, along with a charging system on the lander that will also provide a 4G basestation. But it could also be used for many other battery powered tools and robots, says Waters.
WiBotic is adapting its coils and components for the Moon.
“Mass is critically important. On the technical front we will be enhancing our existing systems for the environment, thermal capabilities and doing away with any active cooling such as fans, then there’s the radiation levels – certain components such as microcontrollers need to be radiation tolerant.”
Bosch will be working on the sensors and AI for navigation for the CubeRover while the University of Washington has expertise in regolith.
“The concept is, for now, that the Rover will house the on board charger, the receiver. The lunar lander will house the transmitter. This has batteries and we will be working on the system integration and is aware of its capacity so we can dynamically adjust the charging rate,” said Waters.