Undergrad Research Project - Lunar Power Systems Prototype

Spring 2011

Nicholas Letwin
Red Whittaker
Project description

Because of the relatively small market for space electronics, and the uniqueness of spacecraft, a commercial solution to manage the power usage of a lunar rover does not exist. The goal of this project is to create a prototype power system for Carnegie Mellon's Google Lunar X-Prize rover. The system will have to control the operation of solar panels using maximum power point tracking technology, store that power in four lithium iron phosphate battery packs, and supply power to the rover in such a way that the batteries are not damaged.

This research will investigate the interaction between multiple maximum power point trackers as is required for a system with multiple solar panels. This requires studying interactions at the electrical level as well as networking the controllers and writing software to ensure that their combined outputs fall within safe operational parameters.

The scope of the research includes designing the system architecture, implementing that architecture in circuitry, laying out a circuit board for that circuitry, and testing the final design in the field. This circuitry is meant to be a technology demonstrator. It is not designed for flight, and will only function with the rover's prototype low efficiency solar panels. The results of this research will be invaluable in the development of flight ready hardware in the coming semesters.

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