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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] The Principal Investigator of the program is Andrew Horchler. In June 2019, Astrobotic Technology was awarded US$79.5 million to carry 14 payloads to the moon, including a CubeRover, no earlier than July 2021;[2] this mission is currently scheduled to launch in 2022.[3] This would make Carnegie Mellon University the first university in the world to fully develop a lunar rover and the first American entity to successfully pilot an unmanned lunar vehicle.[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][4][5] 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.[6]

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.[4] 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][4]


Mission typeTechnology demonstrator
OperatorAstrobotic Lab and Carnegie Mellon University
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft typeRobotic lunar rover
ManufacturerPlanetary Robotics Lab[9]
Dry mass33 kg (73 lb)[9]
DimensionsHeight: 103 cm[9]
Power100 W from 0.5 m2 solar panel[9]
Start of mission
Launch date2022[3] 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][4] and under this agreement, Astrobotic will produce a flight-ready rover with a mass of approximately 2 kg (4.4 lb) that will fly on Astrobotic's Peregrine lunar lander to the Moon[2] in 2022.

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.[4] Similarly, future larger CubeRovers may be able to incorporate thermal insulation and systems qualified for ultra-low temperatures.[4]

A spinoff company was created in 2018, called CubeRover, and it is based in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg.[11] Its president is Mike Provenzano. The company has support from Luxemburg and it is expected to collaborate with local universities and companies.[12][13] It is hoped that it will become a hub for small planetary rover design, manufacture, and assembly, as well as a shop.

The first derivative of a CubeRover, a spinoff rover called Iris developed by CMU students, is planned to be deployed on the Moon on board Astrobotic's Peregrine lander[14] 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 c d "Carnegie Mellon Robot, Art Project To Land on Moon in 2021". Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute. June 6, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Berger, Eric (25 June 2021). "Rocket Report: China to copy SpaceX's Super Heavy? Vulcan slips to 2022". Ars Technica. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Leonard, David (16 March 2018). "This Tiny Private CubeRover Could Reach the Moon by 2020".
  5. ^ Jost, Kevin (8 May 2018). "Astrobotic to develop CubeRover standard for planetary surface mobility". Autonomous Vehicle Technology.
  6. ^ CubeRover – 2-kg Lunar Rover. Andrew Tallaksen's blog, lead systems engineer for CubeRover. 2018.
  7. ^ "Moon Shot" Web Series Profiles GLXP Teams. Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute. April 25, 2016.
  8. ^ Carnegie Mellon Unveils Lunar Rover "Andy". Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute. November 24, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d "Andy — CMU". CMU Planetary Robotics. Archived from the original on 2016-04-16. Retrieved 2019-09-08.
  10. ^ Cuberover for Lunar Resource Site Evaluation. SBIR, US Government. Accessed on 8 December 2018.
  11. ^ Latrell, Joe (2 October 2018). "Astrobotic spins out CubeRover, opens offices in Luxembourg". Spaceflight Insider.
  12. ^ Foust, Jeff (29 September 2018). "Three American space startups to establish offices in Luxembourg". SpaceNews.
  13. ^ Hebden, Kerry (8 October 2018). "CubeRover to develop low-cost, revolutionary rover in Luxembourg". Asgardia.
  14. ^ Spice, Byron (14 May 2020). "Iris Lunar Rover Meets Milestone for Flight". Carnegie Mellon University News. Retrieved 31 May 2020.

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