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Audi going to the moon; Audi lunar e-quattro rover

Audi is supporting the German team (the “Part-Time Scientists”) in the Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) competition with its know-how in several fields of technology from quattro all-wheel drive and lightweight construction to electric mobility and piloted driving.

The lunar rover is powered by a solar panel the total surface area of which measures around 30 square centimeter; a compact lithium-ion battery is located centrally in the chassis with energy capacity sufficient for the 500-meter drive required by GLXP contest rules.

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. The theoretical maximum speed is 3.6 km/h (2.2 mph)—but more important on the rugged surface of the moon are the vehicle’s off‑road capabilities and ability for safe orientation.

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 kg (77 lbs). 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.

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. Click to enlarge.

The US$30-million 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. The research group’s lunar vehicle has already been recognized during the course of the competition by a jury of aerospace experts with two Milestone Prizes.

The key competitor teams for PT Scientists that also received milestone prizes are: Astrobotics (USA), Moon Express (USA), Hakuto (Japan) and Team Indus (India).

The concept of a privately financed mission to the moon is fascinating. 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, Audi Board Member for Sales and Marketing

Luca de Meo is presenting the partnership today at the international innovation forum Cannes Innovation Days.

We are pleased to support the project with our know‑how in lightweight technology, electronics and robotics.

—Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi Board Member for Technical Development

As a cooperating partner, Audi is primarily supporting the team with its expertise in lightweight construction and e‑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 rover, which will be named the “Audi lunar quattro,” to ensure ideal lightweight construction conditions.

The lunar vehicle with the Audi lunar quattro should launch into space in 2017 on board a launching rocket and will travel more than 380,000 kilometers to the moon. The trip will take about five days. The target landing area is north of the moon’s equator, near the 1972 landing site of the Apollo 17, NASA’s last manned mission to the moon. Temperatures fluctuate here by up to 300 ˚C.

Audi lunar quattro. Click to enlarge.

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.


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