The November 16, 2021 Northrop Grumman Press Release Highly specialized team to design vehicle for sustainable lunar surface mobility operations begins
Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC), is teaming up with AVL, Intuitive Machines, Lunar Outpost, and Michelin to design a Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) to transport NASA’s Artemis astronauts around the lunar surface. This team provides multi-disciplinary expertise that is ready to deliver an innovative solution to NASA for lunar surface mobility.
“Together with our teammates, we will provide NASA with an agile and affordable vehicle design to greatly enhance human and robotic exploration of the lunar surface to further enable a sustainable human presence on the Moon and, ultimately, Mars,” said Steve Krein, vice president, civil and commercial space, tactical space systems division, Northrop Grumman.
The rover itself may be NG but at least it's going to have Michelin tires!
The press release includes the artwork below which depicts two suited astronauts working along the sides of the rover as viewed obliquely from the back.
Centered along the back side of the rover is what looks a lot like an MMRTG; a cylinder perhaps 25 x 100 cm, cocked up at that "jaunty angle", with a prominent array of heat fins, guards on the left and right side intercepting some of the radiation to protect other equipment lined with tubing that could be used to transfer heat via pumped fluids to the computer and other key components requiring a continuous, reliable heat source and thermal stabilization.
Now I can't believe that crewed lunar exploration is only going to need one rover, and while later on there will be an infrastructure of electric rovers and charging stations along all of the interstates, certainly you want some absolutely reliable power source to stay alive if your car breaks down at night (or batteries run out trying to get out of a sand trap) on the Moon.
So I can see that having 100 watts electric built-in (and more power as thermal) would be life-saving. It can convert CO2 back to breathable air, purify water and keep it from freezing, run the DVD player and send radio signals to satellites and Earth for help. So no matter if the rovers all have big battery packs, you will be extremely happy to have one of these as well.
I'm all in! As much as safety belts and floatation devices are mandatory and intuitive in cars and boats on Earth, MMRTG's should come standard with any scouting or adventure-grade rover on the Moon, and by extension, on Mars.
Question: Is lunar exploration going to need a whole heck of a lot of MMRTGs? If so, have they started firing up the RTG-making reactors yet?
- Space News (2019): Plutonium Still Scarce, Production Restart Still Slow for Needy NASA
The Northrop Grumman-led team will provide NASA with an affordable and sustainable vehicle design that will expand human and robotic exploration of the lunar surface.