NASA has plans for both manned and unmanned lunar missions in the next decade, and once again it has turned to Michelin to design tyres for the extra-terrestrial environment. Michelin’s European and North American research teams have combined to develop a structurally supported tyre and wheel unit, assembled from composite materials.
David Stafford, chief operating officer of Michelin Americas Research Company, said, “Michelin has partnered with NASA for more than 20 years to provide tyres for the space shuttle, and now we are taking our involvement a step further in support of the next generation of space exploration. 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 is based on Michelin’s Tweel assembly. It delivers flexibility and constant contact pressure, and combines low mass and high load capacity. The textile tread of the lunar tyre gives excellent traction even at the low temperatures found on the moon.
According to David Stafford, “This new technology not only applies to lunar missions, but may also be directly leveraged into other mobility applications requiring light-weight and low rolling resistance. It’s an exciting advance for mobility in space and here on Earth”.
The Michelin Lunar Wheel will be utilized on the Scarab Rover, which needs the capability to perform tests in the extreme cold of the lunar environment. Michelin has also produced another lunar wheel for use on the ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer) Rover, which will used as a transport vehicle for the construction of NASA’s lunar outpost.
Jaret B. Matthews, NASA’s principal investigator for the development of the Lunar Wheel, praised the French tyre producer, “Michelin’s team of scientists and engineers worked closely with our design team to create a solution that addresses the unique challenges of lunar exploration. The Michelin wheel successfully exceeds our initial design targets”.