The German Lunar Mobile Payload Element
Europe is preparing a new robot mission which will land on the moon in 2018. For this mission, German engineers of Kayser-Threde GmbH are developing a robot which is able to take moon samples: the MPE. Not only for marketing purposes, elaborate 3D renderings of the little vehicle are necessary. Primarily, it’s about using images close to reality, which specialists like to see because they’re error-free. These images are provided by Design & Data.
Kayser-Threde GmbH is a medium-sized company from Munich specialised in developing and implementing high tech solutions. In cooperation with a few German companies and institutes, Kayser-Threde will send a 12 kg Mobile Payload Element, the MPE, along on the European moon mission. Different experiments will take place on board of the carrier Lunar Lander. For others, the MPEwill independently go on an excursion over the moon’s surface and collect soil and rock samples.
Professionally import CAD data
In order to create 3D images of the sample collector we received CAD data from the CATIA application. These, we implemented into a 3D programme, which rarely works error free: edges may skew or look barbed. Wheels are suddenly by themselves in space. Sometimes, two angles become twenty. But rough ironing out wasn’t demanded. In correcting the imported data we needed absolute precision. All calculations the engineers had done had to be depicted right. After approval of the imported data by Kayser-Threde we started with the main task: designing the mobile element MPE.
What does a moon rover look like that has not yet been built? We were guided by the different materials of the mobile robot: the camera lenses for example are made of glass, the frame of aluminium and titanium, the photovoltaic cells have a golden yellow kapton mylar coating and the wheels are not made of rubber, but of CFK, carbon-fibre boosted plastic. Glass is smooth, aluminium dull, and kapton-mylar? The engineers had exactly stated all screws and seams and placed them accurately to the millimetre. So we designed textures, millings and concavities – all as detailed as possible.
Our MPE on the Moon
When our clients liked the digital vehicle and it withstood all critical examinations, we put it on the moon. But what is it like on the moon? The look needed to conform to the conditions on the South Pole of the moon. Now we know: objects there will cast long, sharp shadows. The surface is dusty and the wheel tracks will be like Neil Armstrong’s foot print. We adapted the entire look to these extraterrestrial conditions. And it worked. Now our robot is on the South Pole of the moon.
The MPE’s finalised renderings will be part of scientific papers, in magazines, project documentations and presentations. Scientists will be happy with them and hopefully get themselves into the fascination of the images, without finding errors due to their scientific exactness. Additionally, all financial backers in the member states of an ESA project need to be convinced of the project. Maybe the images will help. They definitely withstood the strict requirements of the Kayser-Thede space experts. The only thing missing is the Yes of the EU conference of the council of ministers about the financing in November 2012. Then, the small vehicle will be built in reality.