Space Exploration - The Robotics Institute Carnegie Mellon University
Space Exploration2021-07-16T09:54:28-04:00

Space Exploration

The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University has a strong legacy in building robots for space exploration. As NASA’s most significant partner in space robotics research since the 1980s, several robotic systems have been designed, built and tested in extreme conditions such as the arctic, the driest desert, inside a volcano and deep underwater.

Technologies created at the Robotics Institute have already found their way into the solar system and the work continues with the upcoming lunar landings of MoonRanger and Iris.



MoonRanger, a suitcase-sized rover developed by CMU and its spinoff Astrobotic in collaboration with NASA’s Ames Research Center, passed NASA’s key decision point review and is in the final stages of preparation for a 2023 mission to search for signs of water at the moon’s south pole.

Iris, a robot designed by CMU students, has passed its critical design review by NASA and is on track to land on the moon in the fall of 2021.
The V-R3x mission uses a swarm of three small satellites to demonstrate new technologies and techniques for radio networking and navigation. Launched in 2021.

Andy 2 was one rover prototype built for the Google Lunar X-Prize challenge. Mobility tests were conducted at NASA Glenn Research Center on material equivalent to lunar sand.

The shape of this moon rover moderates extreme lunar temperatures while gathering sunpower and rejecting heat. The simplicity achieves mobility and reliability with a minimum of moving parts.
Scarab is a prototype rover for lunar polar exploration. Its unique configuration allows it to adjust body posture for ascent and descent of craters and to position a coring drill for soil sampling.

The TRESTLE project developed the architectural framework necessary to coordinate robots performing complex assembly projects. It sought to develop architectural tools used to coordinate actions performed by multiple robots, in this case, the NASA RoboCrane, Xavier and Bullwinkle.

Equipped with specialized sensors, Zoe roams the Atacama desert in search of life. Just like its predecessor Hyperion, Zoe has an array of solar cells to collect energy from the sun and plan its day to maximize science returns while maintaining battery levels.
A solar powered rover that proved the concept of Sun-Synchronous navigation in the Canadian high Arctic.
An assembly, inspection and maintenance robot for orbital structures.
Robot for autonomous exploration of planet-like deserts. It pioneered spherical vision and long-range navigation. Shown here in the Chilean Atacama desert.
The Ratler prototype was a rover built to demonstrate technologies that could enable a robotic lunar mission envisioned in the early 1990s to visit historic landing sites.
A tethered walking robot for science missions in active volcanoes, explored the Mt. Spurr volcano in Alaska. It was used to sample high-temperature, gas samples from the fumaroles on the crater floor.
Dante rappels mountainsides using a spherical laser scanner and foot sensors. It entered the crater of Antarctica’s Mt. Erebus but did not reach the lava lake.
Ambler was a walking robot that enabled energy-efficient overlapping gaits. Developed as a testbed for research in walking robots operating in rugged terrain.