Michelin lunar wheel in testing. Click image to enlarge
Greenville, South Carolina – Michelin has developed a new lunar wheel for the next generation of NASA moon rover vehicles, intended for manned and unmanned moon missions planned for the coming decade. The structurally supported tire and wheel assembly, made of composite materials and based on the Michelin Tweel design, was jointly designed at Michelin’s European and North American research centres.
“Michelin has partnered with NASA for more than 20 years to provide tires for the space shuttle, and now we are taking our involvement a step further in support of the next generation of space exploration,” said David Stafford, CEO of Michelin Americas Research Company. “This project demonstrates Michelin’s ability to engineer advanced technology that meets the mobility needs of the world’s most demanding customers, including NASA.”
The Michelin Lunar Wheel maintains flexibility and constant ground contact pressure at very low temperatures, and maintains a high load capacity that is 3.3 times more efficient than the original Apollo Lunar Rover wheels even though it has a low mass. Stafford said that the technology could be applied to other applications requiring light weight and low rolling resistance.
The Michelin Lunar Wheel has been fitted to the Scarab Rover, a lunar robot designed by Carnegie Mellon University in cooperation with NASA, and will be tested in Hawaii on terrain that simulates the lunar polar region.