NASA tests robotics for lunar electric rovers (LERs) and space exploration in remote locations, such as the Arizona desert, that closely simulate the terrain of the Moon or planets. The LER tests are conducted by a team of NASA engineers also known as the Desert RATS (Desert Research and Technology Studies).
To assist the engineers, Dometic Corp. has completed installation of an air conditioning system in a new second-generation lunar electric rover (LER II) being built by NASA. The LER II functions as a testbed for future Moon exploration, either manned or unmanned.
Dometic designed, developed, manufactured, and installed the air conditioning for the rover under a contract awarded by the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX.
“The lunar rovers are being tested in Arizona, so the system has to keep the NASA scientists and their test equipment cool and dry under extreme temperatures and high-dust conditions,” said Lou Siegel, spokesman for Dometic’s trucking business unit. “In addition, the rover vehicle driver’s station and payload compartment are fully sealed, so all hoses, ducts, and wiring must pass through pressurized bulkheads.”
The 10,000 BTU/hour air conditioning system includes a compressor/condenser module in the rover’s undercarriage, and an evaporator unit in the overhead of the driver’s “bubble” up front, with cool air ducted to the compartment behind. It also includes Dometic’s Q-Logic CAN bus controls and a custom- designed condensate removal system with self-priming pumps. The system runs on the rover’s 300V DC electric power supply, converted to 115V AC to drive the air conditioner.
The LER II vehicle, about the size of a large pickup truck, has 12 wheels, which can pivot 360 degrees, permitting the rover to travel in any direction, including inclines up to 40 degrees.
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