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Happy New Year! HAKUTO Finishes Tests for the Milestone Prize, and Awaits the Announcement of the Results.

HAKUTO, the Japanese team selected to compete for the Milestone Prizes, has submitted the final documents reporting the results of their development and verification activities for the milestone prize at the end of 2014. The documents include several tests to prove that our pre-flight model rovers are flight-ready, and now we'll give you a sneak peek of some of the tests!


We've done vibration tests to confirm that the developed rover system meets its specifications with respect to the huge vibrations that occur during the rocket launch. The rovers were enclosed in a lander interface box and mounted on a shaker table, and then vibrations to the specified level of intensity were applied in three axes. Hakuto confirmed that the rovers including all electronics can withstand the harsh vibrations of a rocket launch.

Vibration testing


Next are the thermal vacuum tests, conducted to confirm that the rovers can work properly in the vacuum environment and in the high and low temperatures expected during the cruising phase and on the lunar surface. We confirmed that all of the onboard electronics systems functioned correctly in the given range of thermal conditions. Useful data was also obtained to verify and update our thermal model of the rover system.

Thermal vacuum testing


The biggest and most important test was the field mobility test. Since the lunar surface is very loose, being covered in fine and abrasive sand known as regolith, it is difficult for vehicles to move without slipping. We conducted field mobility tests overseen by Google Lunar XPRIZE judge David Swanson (Chairman), to prove that our rovers have capability of moving on soft surfaces such as the moon. Our field testing was conducted on the Nakatajima sand dunes, one of the best lunar analog sites in Japan. We made one of the test days public to the media, and had more than 25 media representatives visit the field for coverage.

1. Deployment

Hakuto opened the door of the envelope (interface to the lander) remotely, and successfully deployed Moonraker from the envelope.


2. Mobility

Hakuto demonstrated the capability of Moonraker to move forward, backwards and turn on a variety of different terrains and slopes. Operation was controlled remotely, using only the onboard sensors to navigate. Moonraker successfully climbed a 30 degree slope


3. Small obstacles

Hakuto demonstrated Moonraker's capability to run over small obstacles such as rocks.


4. Large obstacles

Hakuto demonstrated Moonraker's capability to avoid a large obstacle.


5. Towing

Hakuto demonstrated Moonraker towing Tetris, which is needed in Hakuto's original mission (explained below).


6. Skylight exploration

Hakuto's ultimate target is to explore the holes that are thought to be caves or "skylights" into underlying lava tubes with their "Dual Rovers" system, the combination of Moonraker and Tetris. These lava tubes could prove to be very important scientifically, as they could help explain the moon's volcanic past. Hakuto demonstrated Moonraker and Tetris going down a simulated skylight condition, a cliff.


7. 500m run-through

Hakuto demonstrated the rover's capability of moving more than 500 meters on the moon's surface in one sequence. It took roughly four hours to travel this distance along the surface of the sand dunes. Hakuto's rovers will need to travel this same distance along the lunar surface, which is covered in fine, abrasive sand known as regolith, while keeping away from craters and rocks

Moonraker moving on simulated lunar surface


Moonraker and Tetris exploring a cliff together


Moonraker surrounded by so many members of the media!


View from Moonraker, taken with its 360-degree camera


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