Space Startup Stells Wants to Put Spacecraft Cargo Covers on the Moon • TechCrunch
The portable power bank first appeared in the year 2001, and since then, charging on the go has been possible for most mobile device users. Now, a new space company He wants to bring the concept of portable charging to the moon – Not for cell phones, of course, but for rovers and descent vehicles.
Toronto-based Stells, which was founded by CEO Alex Kapralov and CTO Vital Ioussoupov in 2021, is developing a rover called the Mobile Power Rover (MPR-1) that will be able to power the lunar spacecraft via wireless charging. The company owns It got a launch date of November 2024 via the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Intuitive machines Landing, with a tentative landing on the Moon in January 2025.
Stiles was initially interested in the lunar crater industry, specifically in craters on the lunar surface. But early research shows that the power source for a rover is likely to be prohibitively expensive. That inspired the MPR-1. “Why don’t we provide energy to others just so they can have a surplus in their energy supply?” Kapralov tells TechCrunch.
Most spacecraft get their power from one of two sources: solar panels and radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG). Of course, solar panels only work in areas that receive sunlight—deep craters don’t always receive any sunlight. Solar panels also require a large surface area. With car-sized vehicles, such as those on Mars, this isn’t a problem. But the next generation of spacecraft will be much smaller. NASA, for example, is developing distributed, collaborative robotic explorers that will be the size of shoeboxes.
On the other hand, RTG does not depend on the sun, and instead uses the radioactive decay of plutonium-238 to generate electrical energy. Perhaps this technology is expensive, perhaps unsurprisingly, and may not be cost-effective for small vehicles.
Given the current push for lunar projects—Artemis 1, for example, launched with four CubeSats destined for the moon (along with six more headed elsewhere)—the MPR-1 could be very useful.
“The way we plan to deliver the power is with a box we call the Wireless Charging Box, or WCB,” says Kapralov. WCB will harness power via solar panels—in the case of a lunar crater, it would place those on the crater’s rim, then run power lines down to the floor of the crater, where WCB is stationed.
WCB then stores this energy in its batteries, then quickly distributes it to other rovers via wireless charging. These rovers, which will need a specific WCB-compatible wireless charging port, will be able to navigate to the WCB using a beacon or visual navigation. With no atmosphere attenuating the radio power signal, this process would be more efficient than that on Earth.
Kapralov also hopes that the WCB will be able to travel to a power-drained lunar rover to provide a fast charge, though this is a challenge for a future mission. The first task will simply be a WCB tech show.
So far, Stells is building prototypes and testing them on the ground — and it’s entirely self-funded. “But we’ll probably start closer to the beginning of next year to try to secure some money for development and launch of the flight,” Kapralov says.
Over the past two decades, there has been a huge push for lunar exploration, and while development has proliferated, results have been minimal. For example, Google’s Lunar Xprize had companies developing lunar rovers for a top prize of $20 million. The competition started in 2007 and the deadline for the moon landing was 2014; When it was clear that no one would be ready by 2014, that deadline was extended to 2018.
Although five teams eventually got release contracts, Google ended the competition without a winner. Moon Express and Team Indus have their contracts canceled from these two teams, while Hakuto/ispace and Synergy Moon are still running whatsoever. The fifth team, SpaceIL, was launched to the Moon in 2019, however Its landing attempt failed.
However, the moon industry continues to evolve, and more missions are closer to reality than ever before. Nothing is guaranteed – there is a breeding ground for good faith failure. But the moon is the limit for dozens of companies like Stells hoping to get there.
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