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CubeRover is a class of planetary rover with a standardized modular format meant to accelerate the pace of space exploration. The idea is equivalent to that of the successful CubeSat format, with standardized off-the-shelf components and architecture to assemble small units that will be all compatible, modular, and inexpensive.[1]

The rover class concept is being developed by Astrobotic Technology in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, and it is partly funded by NASA awards.[1] A Carnegie Mellon University initiative - completely independent of NASA awards - developed Iris, the first flightworthy cuberover. Its 2022 lunar mission will make CMU the first university in the world, and the first American entity, to successfully develop and pilot a lunar rover.[2]



The idea is to create a practical modular concept similar that used for CubeSats and apply it to rovers, effectively creating a new standardized architecture of small modular planetary rovers with compatible parts, systems, and even instruments so that each mission can be easily tailored to its objectives.[1][3][4] The rovers are expendable and do not use solar arrays for electrical power, depending solely on non-rechargeable batteries. This allows it to be lighter, have a larger cooling radiator panel for electronics, and have a simpler avionics design.[5]

The CubeRover program intends that standardizing small rover design with a common architecture will open access to planetary bodies for companies, governments, and universities around the world at a low cost, while increasing functionality, just as the CubeSat has in Earth orbit.[3] This would motivate other members of the space exploration community to develop new systems and instruments that are all compatible with the CubeRover's architecture.[1][3]


Mission typeTechnology demonstrator
OperatorAstrobotic Lab and Carnegie Mellon University
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft typeRobotic lunar rover
ManufacturerPlanetary Robotics Lab[8]
Dry mass2 kg (4.4 lb)[citation needed]
DimensionsHeight: 19 cm[citation needed]
Start of mission
Launch date2022[9] on the Peregrine lander[2]
RocketVulcan Centaur
Launch siteCape Canaveral SLC-41
ContractorUnited Launch Alliance
Moon rover
Landing sitePlanned: Lacus Mortis
Two cameras with 1936 × 1456 resolution

In May 2017 Astrobotic Technology, in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, were selected by NASA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) to receive a $125,000 award[10] to develop a small lunar rover architecture capable of performing small-scale science and exploration on the Moon and other planetary surfaces. During Phase I, the team built a 2-kg rover and performed engineering studies to determine the architecture of a novel chassis, power, computing systems, software and navigation techniques.

In March 2018, the team was awarded funds to move on to Phase II,[1][3] and under this agreement, Astrobotic and CMU were to produce a flight-ready rover with a mass of approximately 2 kg (4.4 lb).

In future missions, CubeRovers may be designed to take advantage of lander-based systems to shelter for the cold lunar night, that lasts for 14 Earth days.[3] Similarly, future larger CubeRovers may be able to incorporate thermal insulation and systems qualified for ultra-low temperatures.[3]

CMU students developed the first flightworthy cuberover, Iris. Iris will fly to the Moon on Astrobotic's Peregrine lander[11] in 2022.


  1. ^ a b c d e Campbell, Lloyd (18 March 2018). "Astrobotic wins NASA award to produce small lunar rover". Spaceflight Insider. Archived from the original on 2019-08-14.
  2. ^ a b "Carnegie Mellon Robot, Art Project To Land on Moon in 2021". Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute. June 6, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Leonard, David (16 March 2018). "This Tiny Private CubeRover Could Reach the Moon by 2020".
  4. ^ Jost, Kevin (8 May 2018). "Astrobotic to develop CubeRover standard for planetary surface mobility". Autonomous Vehicle Technology.
  5. ^ CubeRover – 2-kg Lunar Rover. Andrew Tallaksen's blog, lead systems engineer for CubeRover. 2018.
  6. ^ "Iris Lunar Rover". Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute.
  7. ^ Carnegie Mellon Unveils Lunar Rover "Iris". Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute.
  8. ^ "Andy — CMU". CMU Planetary Robotics. Archived from the original on 2016-04-16. Retrieved 2019-09-08.
  9. ^ Berger, Eric (25 June 2021). "Rocket Report: China to copy SpaceX's Super Heavy? Vulcan slips to 2022". Ars Technica. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  10. ^ Cuberover for Lunar Resource Site Evaluation. SBIR, US Government. Accessed on 8 December 2018.
  11. ^ Spice, Byron (14 May 2020). "Iris Lunar Rover Meets Milestone for Flight". Carnegie Mellon University News. Retrieved 31 May 2020.

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