Australian made lunar rover “hops” across Australia

ELO2 Consortium

The ELO2 Consortium showcases Aussie innovation and cutting-edge space technology

Media call: See a demonstration of the rover in Sydney at The Australian Space Summit and Exhibition, at the ICC, Tuesday 28 & Wednesday 29 May from 8.30am-4pm

Melbourne – An Australian Made Moon rover prototype is touring the country, hopping from state to state to undertake design validation testing at specialist facilities, and visiting some very special mates along the way.

Following the unveiling of three new prototypes in Adelaide in March, where the ELO2 Consortium demonstrated its autonomous robotics capabilities by driving a rover at the Australian Rover Challenge from a remote operations command centre located across the globe, ELO2 is taking the prototypes on a road trip across Australia.

The ELO2 Consortium, co-led by EPE and Lunar Outpost Oceania, has been awarded funding under the Australian Space Agency’s Moon to Mars Initiative: Trailblazer Program Stage 1 to design an Australian Made rover for a future mission to the Moon with NASA, as part of the Artemis program. If successful in winning Stage 2, the ELO2 rover will become Australia’s first lunar rover and its name will be “Roo-ver”, as voted by the Australian public.

The ELO2 Consortium prototype rovers have been officially accredited with the Australian Made certification, recognising them as being genuinely made in Australia.

This week, in celebration of Australian Made Week, the prototypes highlight the importance of locally designed and engineered products. Built in Australia by a consortium of Australian companies, the ELO2 prototype rovers underscore the Australian Government’s commitment to innovation and local manufacturing.

“By building a consortium of Australian companies and research organisations designing and manufacturing space robotics hardware and software right here in Australia, we’re not only ensuring the sustainability of the industry but also growing local jobs, building Australia’s economy, and helping Australia make its mark in the global space ecosystem,” said Joseph Kenrick, Program Manager at Lunar Outpost Oceania.

As the ELO2 rover prototypes make their way across the nation, they demonstrate the remarkable achievements that can be realised through local collaboration and innovation.

“Australian Made Week is a perfect opportunity to showcase the ingenuity, tradecraft, and cutting-edge technology that our local industries offer. It’s not just about celebrating the products; it’s about recognising the skill and dedication that go into producing them. Supporting Australian-made products – even space robots that we can send to the Moon – ensures that we maintain control over quality, invest in our communities, and secure a robust future for Australian industries and the Australian supply chain,” said Joseph.

Australian Made Chief Executive, Ben Lazzaro, said Australian Made Week aims to put the spotlight on genuine Aussie goods, and highlight the creativity and innovation of Australian makers. “Australian Made Week is a time to celebrate all the things that we make, from products you buy on your weekly shop, to the incredible creations happening in robotics. Aussie products are made to some of the highest standards in the world, are trusted, and are known for their safety and quality.”

In April, the lunar rover prototypes made their way to Brisbane for testing at EPE’s MILTECS test facility. This testing campaign focused on assessing the rovers’ ability to operate autonomously, navigating on its own without human operator instructions, and its capacity to successfully complete the mission.

Testing the rovers’ design to handle bumpy terrains and reliably collect and deposit lunar soil, known as “regolith”, is one of the methods used by the ELO2 team to de-risk the project. Data from these tests will help the engineers to understand how the centre of gravity on the lunar surface, which is completely different to that experienced on Earth, will impact the rover’s manoeuvrability.

While testing hardware is critical to mission success, another important aspect is to bring the Australian public along on this historic journey, and to inspire all Australians to be part of this and other space missions. While in Brisbane, one of the prototypes visited Lone Pine Wildlife Sanctuary to meet some ‘roos, Pluto and Venus, who both showed a keen interest in the space-designed rover, and even ate a snack from the rover’s regolith “pouch”.

On another outing, the prototype visited Endeavour Foundation to thank those who participated in the regolith scoop’s design. At the beginning of the year, these budding space enthusiasts tested 3D printed designs of the 10 winning submissions to the Australia-wide Big Dipper design challenge, run by ELO2. Endeavour Foundation participants provided unique perspectives and valuable insights about the winning designs, which contributed to a list of design recommendations for future regolith scoops.

“The Big Dipper Challenge gave us the great benefit of borrowing the creative perspectives of Australians, from all walks of life, to help our engineering team develop innovative designs for the new and unexpected challenges we encounter in space robotics,” said Ben Sorensen, ELO2 Consortium Director and Director of Innovation and Commercialisation at EPE. “And, tapping into the insights gained from diverse perspectives is a vital ingredient for successful innovation.”

To inspire our next generation of the space workforce, the rover prototype visited St Joseph’s Primary School at Kangaroo Point, where the students presented their own rover designs to the ELO2 team.

“It is fantastic to see what young people can imagine and create through impressive use of 3D modelling techniques. Their imaginations expand beyond ours and allows for outside-the-box thinking.”, said Henry Lourey, Project Engineer at ELO2 technical co-lead Lunar Outpost Oceania.

/Public Release.