On Feb. 16, a research team led by Dr. Gang Sung-cheol at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology unveiled a prototype of a lunar rover, which is planned to be on the moon roving by 2020.
What is notable is that a lunar rover has been developed with local technology.
The machine is able to carry out its mission in extreme conditions. Since it is designed to control heat easily, it can operate in a huge daily temperature range from 170 degrees below zero to 130 degrees above zero. It can perform its tasks on rough terrain as well.
The most notable characteristic of the newly-developed rover is that it is composed of two bodies. The passive double tracks of ROBHAZ, a robot designed to perform dangerous work, were used. The passive double tracks with two separate bodies connected with chains help the robot operate in a smooth manner, while maintaining its contact with the ground even in rugged terrain. The rover can move steadily up 30 degree slopes and even get over a 5-cm-tall fence. It can move up to 4 cm per second.
The size of the rover that will be included in a lunar probe measuring 50 x 70 x 25cm and weighing 20kg. Considering that cameras and equipment for communications and analysis that will be featured in the lunar probe weigh 7kg in total, the rover was designed to weigh 13kg.
To minimize the weight of the rover, 6 wheels were made of duralumin, an aluminum alloy used to make aircraft. Carbon fiber–reinforced plastic was also used to make the body. Two A4-sized solar panels in the front of the body will enable the machine to operate as much as 340 hours.
The research team has also developed a film-coating technique and a technology to design and make bearings for the rover using solid lubricants, in consideration of a moon environment with a high degree of vacuum. In a vacuum, it is impossible to use bearings containing liquid lubricant. Thus, solid lubricant is considered to be very important for the development of space systems. If Korea sends the rover to the moon in 2020, it will be the fourth country after Russia, the U.S., and China to land something on the moon.