Monday, April 20, 2015

Astrobotic strives to be FedEx to the Moon

Astrobotic Griffin lunar lander and Red Rover LR. GLXP Hakuto team announced it has joined in their attempt to win the X-PRIZE contest, riding to the Moon atop a Falcon 9 booster [Astrobotic/CMU]. 
Tim Reyes

Astrobotic Technology, a leading Google Lunar X-PRIZE competitor, is setting up to become the first delivery service to the Moon.

With a low-cost launch, they now have a lander with the potential for precision landings driven by new system on a chip (SOC) technologies developed by Nvidia with help from General Electric.

Astrobotic knows that space and robotics are not that easy, but at a recent Nvidia-sponsored technology conference, the company’s engineers were presenting technologies that it argues could ease and accelerate the path to the Moon.

And the company is offering anyone — including their X-PRIZE competitors — a ride to the Moon. Safely on the surface they propose a civilized Mad Max road race to the finish line – 500 meters away –  the winner taking  the $20 million grand prize.

To date, only the Japanese team HAKUTO has joined them.

To make their moon mission a reality, the company is blending an interesting mix of old and new into their lander design, the Griffin Lander.

The new includes the Nvidia Tegra K1 chip used initially in its Jetson dev kit. The old is none other than General Electric designing the custom boards based on Tegra K1 and low-cost computer boards they hope will be recognized as a better, cheaper, alternative to existing radiation-hardened electronics costing millions. The Nvidia dev kit costs little more than $300.

Tapping their own wiz-kids from Carnegie-Mellon, Astrobotics is using laser-guided imagery that was developed to compete for the DARPA Grand Challenge for autonomous vehicles. For Astrobotic, the convergence of all of this tech is designed to get them beyond just the Google Lunar X-PRIZE but much more.

Read the featured article, HERE.

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