Moog
East Aurora, NY
www.moog.com

NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) is a mobile robot that will go to the South Pole of the Moon to get a close-up view of the location and concentration of water ice that could eventually be harvested to sustain human exploration on the Moon, Mars, and beyond. VIPER represents the first resource mapping mission on another celestial body. This data will be instrumental in determining possible future landing sites for the NASA Artemis program, which will return Americans to the Moon. VIPER is planned for delivery to the lunar surface in late 2023.

VIPER will rely on Moog’s radiation-hardened avionics technology to control the rover during its 100-day mission. The Integrated Avionics Unit (IAU) and Spacecraft Energization and Power Interfacing Assembly (SEPIA) will be the main computer and power management source for VIPER — essentially the “brains” of the rover.

The IAU combines traditional command and data handling and electric power subsystem functions. The IAU controls VIPER’s instruments for command, telemetry, heaters, and temperature/voltage/current sensors. In addition, the equipment provides radiation-tolerant image processing and storage that will guide VIPER’s maneuvers across the lunar surface.

The IAU and SEPIA will also manage the solar array, battery charging, and power distribution that support the large power requirements needed for wheel motor control and drilling capabilities. A particularly unique capability is the very low-power hibernation mode that will allow VIPER to survive the challenging prolonged lunar nights throughout the mission.

Said Chris Hodge, General Manger at Moog in Gilbert, AZ, “We are excited to be providing the NASA VIPER control electronics. The extreme environments in the shadowed craters of the Moon’s South Pole have driven challenging power and thermal designs to survive the hibernation phases. Moog is proud to be part of this mission that will enable future generations of human exploration.”

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This article first appeared in the December, 2021 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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