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Business News/ Science / News/  Railway tracks on Moon? NASA shares plan; all you need to know
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Railway tracks on Moon? NASA shares plan; all you need to know

NASA plans to build a lunar railway system for efficient payload transport on the Moon, essential for future sustainable lunar bases as part of the Moon to Mars initiative.

The FLOAT system introduced by NASA utilizes magnetic robots that levitate over a flexible film track, minimizing lunar dust abrasion and wear. (Photo: NASA)Premium
The FLOAT system introduced by NASA utilizes magnetic robots that levitate over a flexible film track, minimizing lunar dust abrasion and wear. (Photo: NASA)

NASA has unveiled its plan to construct the first lunar railway system, designed to offer reliable, autonomous, and efficient payload transport on the Moon.

In its official blog, NASA said that this durable, long-lasting robotic transport system will be essential for the daily operations of a sustainable lunar base envisioned for the 2030s, as part of NASA’s Moon to Mars initiative and mission concepts like the Robotic Lunar Surface Operations 2 (RLSO2).

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Moreover, NASA has proposed a solution for transporting regolith mined for ISRU consumables (H2O, LOX, LH2) or construction materials, as well as for moving payloads around the lunar base and to/from landing zones or other outposts.

They introduce FLOAT — Flexible Levitation on a Track — to address these transportation needs.

What is FLOAT?

The FLOAT system utilizes unpowered magnetic robots that levitate over a 3-layer flexible film track. This track comprises a graphite layer for passive floating using diamagnetic levitation, a flex-circuit layer for generating electromagnetic thrust to propel robots along the tracks, and an optional thin-film solar panel layer for power generation when exposed to sunlight.

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FLOAT robots, devoid of moving parts, minimize lunar dust abrasion/wear by levitating over the track, unlike lunar robots equipped with wheels, legs, or tracks.

What will happen in Phase 2?

NASA noted that in Phase 2, “We will continue to retire risks related to the manufacture, deployment, control, and long-term operation of meter-scale robots / km-scale tracks that support human exploration (HEO) activities on the Moon," by accomplishing the following key tasks:

1. Design, manufacture, and test a series of sub-scale robot/track prototypes, culminating with a demonstration in a lunar-analogue testbed.

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2. Investigate the impacts of environmental effects on system performance and longevity.

3. Investigate/define a technology roadmap to address technology gaps and mature manufacturing capability for critical hardware.

 

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Published: 14 May 2024, 09:05 AM IST
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