Audi Lunar Quattro moon roverAudi is taking off for the moon – together with the Part-Time Scientists team. The group of German engineers are working within the framework of the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition to transport an unmanned rover onto Earth's natural satellite. Audi is supporting the Part-Time Scientists with its know-how in several fields of technology – from quattro drive and lightweight construction to electric mobility and piloted driving. The moon rover will be named the "Audi lunar quattro."
"The concept of a privately financed mission to the moon is fascinating," says Luca de Meo, Audi Board Member for Sales and Marketing. "And innovative ideas need supporters that promote them. We want to send a signal with our involvement with the Part-Time Scientists and also motivate other partners to contribute their know-how." Luca de Meo is presenting the partnership today at the international innovation forum Cannes Innovation Days.
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi Board Member for Technical Development: "We are pleased to support the project with our know-how in lightweight technology, electronics and robotics."
The goal: a 500 meter drive on the lunar surfaceThe US$ 30 million plus Google Lunar XPRIZE is a competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a privately funded team must successfully place a robot on the moon's surface that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth.
AUDI AG is incorporating its technological know-how into optimization of the rover of the Part-Time Scientists, the only German team competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE. Their prototype lunar vehicle has already been recognized during the course of the competition by a jury of aerospace experts with two Milestone Prizes.
As a cooperating partner, Audi is primarily supporting the team with its expertise in lightweight construction and electric mobility, with quattro permanent all-wheel drive and with piloted driving. Audi is also providing wide-ranging assistance in testing, trials and quality assurance. In addition, the Audi Concept Design Studio in Munich is revising the moon rover, which will be named the "Audi lunar quattro."
The lunar vehicle with the Audi lunar quattro should launch into space by the end of 2017 on board a launching rocket and will travel more than 380,000 kilometers to the moon. The trip will take around five days. The target zone is north of the Moon's equator, close to the 1972 landing site of the Apollo 17, NASA's last manned mission to the moon.
The Audi lunar quattro: top speed 2.2 miles per hourThe Part-Time Scientists developed their lunar vehicle, which is largely made of aluminum, during various rounds of testing undertaken in locations such as the Austrian Alps and Tenerife. An adjustable solar panel captures sunlight, and its generated electricity is fed to a lithium-ion battery that powers the four wheel hub motors.
The theoretical maximum speed is 3.6 km/h (2.2 miles per hour) – but more important on the rugged surface of the moon are the vehicle's off-road capabilities and ability for safe orientation. A swiveling head at the front of the vehicle carries two stereoscopic cameras as well as a camera for scientific purposes.
"With Audi we have acquired a strong partner that will bring us a big step forward with its technological and mobility capabilities," said Robert Böhme, founder and head of the Part-Time Scientists. "We look forward to future interaction and a fruitful partnership."
The Part-Time Scientists team was initiated in late 2008 by Robert Böhme, who works as an IT consultant in Berlin. The majority of the roughly 35 current engineers on the team come from Germany and Austria. Experts from three continents support the team, including former leading NASA employee Jack Crenshaw from Florida. Supporters of the group, in addition to Audi, include numerous research institutions and high-tech companies including NVIDIA, Technical University of Berlin, the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
The Google Lunar XPRIZE, which started off with more than 25 teams, is currently in its final round. Participants in the competition, in addition to Part-Time Scientists, include 15 teams from around the world including Brazil, Canada, Chile, Hungary, Japan, Israel, Italy, Malaysia and the United States.
Trip to the Moon: the Google Lunar XPRIZE competitionThe US$ 30 million-plus Google Lunar XPRIZE is a competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a privately funded team must successfully place a robot on the moon's surface that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth.
The purpose of the Google Lunar XPRIZE is to promote the implementation of breakthrough ideas that are innovative, unconventional and cost-effective. One aspect of this is that participants must obtain at least 90 percent of their project funds from sources other than governmental institutions. According to cost estimates by the Part-Time Scientists, launching a rocket to transport their rover, more than 380,000 kilometers distance to the moon, will cost around 24 million euros, including the necessary insurance policies.
The mission, which must be completed by December 31, 2017, will take approximately five days, according to the Part-Time Scientists. Their targeted landing zone is north of the moon's equator, not far from the 1972 landing site of the Apollo 17, NASA's last manned mission to the moon. This is a rather inhospitable zone – with temperatures fluctuating up to 300 degrees Celsius.
The Google Lunar XPRIZE is currently in its final round, with 16 teams remaining. Along with the Part-Time Scientists, who officially registered for the competition in June 2009, there are four other teams that won a total of US$5.25 million in Milestone Prizes, in recognition of technological progress: Astrobotics (United States), Moon Express (United States), Team Indus (India) and Hakuto (Japan).
After successful test demonstrations, the Part-Time Scientists – the only German team in the Google Lunar XPRIZE – received Milestone Prizes for development of their rover ("Mobility Prize") and their optical systems and sensors ("Imaging Prize"). The team's total winnings for these two Milestone Prizes was US$750,000.
Designed for extreme conditions: the Audi lunar quattro and its technologyToday, the Part-Time Scientists' lunar rover already fascinates with its highly specialized technical solutions. Now Audi is assisting to make it the Audi lunar quattro – even lighter, more versatile and with higher performance.
The Part-Time Scientists' lunar rover, whose development has spanned many years and extensive test iterations, impresses in all technical areas with its highly specialized and de olutions. The vehicle provides its own energy: A solar panel whose total surface tailed s area measures around 30 square centimeter captures the light of the sun and converts it into electricity.
It is supplemented by a compact lithium-ion battery located centrally in the chassis; its energy must be sufficient for the 500 meter long drive that is required by Google Lunar XPRIZE contest rules. When the sun is shining on the moon's surface, temperatures rise to as much as 120 degrees Celsius due to the lack of an atmosphere.
The chassis is also designed for rugged duty. Double wishbone suspensions are used at all four of the wheels that can each be rotated over 360 degrees. Four wheel hub motors power the drive system – their interplay makes the rover an e-quattro. Its theoretical top speed is 3.6 km/h.
However, much more important on the lunar surface is the ability to overcome rough obstacles and to navigate reliably. Mounted to a moving head at the front of the vehicle are two cameras that acquire detailed 3D images. A third camera is used to study lunar materials and takes high-definition images.
Many of the lunar rover's components are made of high-strength aluminum, and the rover's total weight is 35 kilograms. In advanced development of the vehicle into the Audi lunar quattro, its weight will be further reduced by the use of magnesium and other modifications to its design, although the vehicle might grow somewhat in size. Every gram counts twice in transporting the rover to the moon – weight savings reduce the lander's fuel reserve requirements, and they also reduce costs for the launch vehicle.
The Audi working group that is assisting the Part-Time Scientists currently consists of ten employees who represent different technical departments. In addition to lightweight design competence, they have much more know-how to offer, especially expertise related to the quattro permanent all-wheel drive system and the electrical e-tron drive system. The goal here is to further improve performance by additional improvements to the electric motors, power electronics and battery.
The brand with the four rings is also providing wide-ranging assistance in testing, trials and quality assurance. Specialists from Quality Assurance will study the rover's parts for wear using their high-tech tools and methods. The motors and electronic components of the future Audi lunar quattro must pass stress tests in climate chambers.
The Part-Time Scientists are pleased with the collaboration. "With Audi we have acquired a strong partner that will bring us a big step forward with its technological and mobility capabilities," said Robert Böhme, founder and head of the team. "We very much look forward to future interaction and a fruitful partnership."