Michelin has developed a new lunar wheel for the next generation of NASA moon rover vehicles. The structurally supported tire and wheel assembly, made of breakthrough composite materials, was jointly developed at Michelin’s European and North American research centers. This unique innovation will help Michelin meet NASA’s mobility challenges for manned and un-manned moon missions planned for the coming decade.
“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, chief operating officer 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 has a low mass yet maintains a high load capacity that is 3.3 times more efficient than the original Apollo Lunar Rover wheels. The wheel structure, developed by Michelin, employs Michelin-patented composite materials. Its textile tread, developed in conjunction with Clemson University and Milliken & Company, enables moon rovers to maintain traction at very low temperatures.
“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,” said Stafford. “It’s an exciting advance for mobility in space and here on Earth.”
The MICHELIN Lunar Wheel will undergo field-testing on the Scarab Rover in Hawaii from Oct. 31 through Nov. 13, 2008 as part of a NASA Lunar Analogs testing and evaluation event. The terrain, rock distribution and soil materials of Hawaii’s Big Island provide high-quality simulation of the lunar polar region.