Australian Made lunar rover “Roo-ver” tours the country

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An Australian-made lunar rover prototype is touring the country, hopping from state to state to conduct design validation testing at specialist facilities and meeting some special mates along the way.

Following the unveiling of three new prototypes in Adelaide in March, the ELO2 Consortium demonstrated its autonomous robotics capabilities by remotely driving a rover at the Australian Rover Challenge from a command centre across the globe, the consortium said in a news release.

Co-led by EPE and Lunar Outpost Oceania, the ELO2 Consortium received funding under the Australian Space Agency’s Moon to Mars Initiative: Trailblazer Program Stage 1 to design an Australian-made rover for a future mission to the Moon with NASA as part of the Artemis program.

If successful in winning Stage 2, the ELO2 rover will become Australia’s first lunar rover, named “Roo-ver” by popular vote.

The ELO2 Consortium’s prototype rovers have been accredited with the Australian Made certification, underscoring their genuine Australian origin.

This week, in celebration of Australian Made Week, the prototypes highlight the importance of locally designed and engineered products.

Built by a consortium of Australian companies, the ELO2 prototype rovers demonstrate the Australian Government’s commitment to innovation and local manufacturing.

“By building a consortium of Australian companies and research organisations designing and manufacturing space robotics hardware and software right here in Australia, we’re not only ensuring the sustainability of the industry but also growing local jobs, building Australia’s economy, and helping Australia make its mark in the global space ecosystem,” said Joseph Kenrick, program manager at Lunar Outpost Oceania.

As the ELO2 rover prototypes travel across the nation, the consortium said they showcase the remarkable achievements realized through local collaboration and innovation.

“Australian Made Week is a perfect opportunity to showcase the ingenuity, tradecraft, and cutting-edge technology our local industries offer,” Kenrick said.

“Supporting Australian-made products ensures we maintain control over quality, invest in our communities, and secure a robust future for Australian industries and the supply chain.”

Australian Made Chief Executive Ben Lazzaro emphasised the importance of the week, highlighting the creativity and innovation of Australian makers.

“Australian Made Week is a time to celebrate all the things that we make, from products you buy on your weekly shop to the incredible creations in robotics. Aussie products are made to some of the highest standards in the world, trusted for their safety and quality,” he noted.

In April, the lunar rover prototypes were tested at EPE’s MILTECS test facility in Brisbane, focusing on autonomous operation and navigation without human instructions.

The tests aimed to ensure the rovers can handle bumpy terrains and collect lunar soil, known as regolith, effectively.

Data from these tests will help engineers understand how the lunar surface’s different center of gravity impacts the rover’s maneuverability.

In addition to hardware testing, engaging the Australian public in this historic journey is crucial.

While in Brisbane, one prototype visited Lone Pine Wildlife Sanctuary, where kangaroos Pluto and Venus showed a keen interest in the space-designed rover.

The prototype also visited Endeavour Foundation to thank participants in the regolith scoop’s design, offering valuable insights from the Australia-wide Big Dipper design challenge.

The rover prototypes’ next stops include Sydney in May, where they will visit schools and public landmarks before heading back to Melbourne for further development.

With approval from kangaroos Pluto and Venus, ELO2 said it looks forward to bringing the prototypes to more destinations across Australia this year.