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Nascar swaps racetrack for lunar surface with rover design

Professional Engineering

Nascar and Leidos' submitted design for NASA’s new Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) (Credit: Leidos)
Nascar and Leidos' submitted design for NASA’s new Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) (Credit: Leidos)

Nascar drivers are used to top speeds of 320km/h and oval tracks, but the American racing series’ potential new vehicle will go much slower – and cross a very different kind of surface.

The organisation has teamed up with technology and engineering firm Leidos to submit a competitive bid to supply NASA’s new Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV), which could be in use on the Moon by 2028. The rover that is selected will be the agency’s first new buggy since the Lunar Roving Vehicle, more than 50 years ago.

Details of the partnership and the rover’s proposed design were unveiled yesterday (18 April) at the Space Foundation's 38th annual Space Symposium in Colorado.

Solar arrays will provide power to the two-person rover, which is designed to have a top speed of 15km/h (9mph) and a gradeability of more than 20º. Payload bays could hold more than 800kg of cargo, including mobility, power, thermal and communications technology. 

The design features shape-memory alloy tyres made from a nickel-titanium alloy known as nitinol, intended to provide high performance during extremely low lunar temperatures.

“We are thrilled to unveil our lunar vehicle design and to announce our exciting new promotional partnership,” said Roger Krone, CEO of Virginia-headquartered Leidos. “This ground-breaking collaboration between Leidos and Nascar takes both companies into uncharted territory, just like we believe our rover will do for NASA and its astronauts. We aim to pave the way for human exploration of space and inspire the next generation of engineers, scientists and innovators to reach for the stars.”

The company has also made a bid for the Human Landing System Sustaining Lunar Development contract, part of NASA’s Artemis programme aimed at re-establishing human presence on the Moon, and is working on the Universal Stage Adapter, which will connect the agency’s Space Launch System to the Orion spacecraft.

The rover project also includes Michigan firm Roush Industries, which is providing automotive design and manufacturing experience. Other partners include Collins Aerospace, Motiv Space Systems, Moog, APT Research, Sophic Synergistics and the Centre for Advanced Vehicular Systems at Mississippi State University.

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.


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