Sep.27 CubeRover has been selected by NASA’s New Tipping Point Partnerships for Moon and Mars Technologies, receiving $2 million NASA funding.
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Designing an interface for the 2021 lunar rover launch

Designing an interface for CubeRover, a 2kg lightweight lunar rover launching to the Moon in 2021 with $79.5 million NASA funding.

Team

Astrobotic
CubeRover TeleOps Interface Design Team

Role

TeleOps Interface Design Lead

Timeline

September 2018 - ongoing

Project Background

Going for the first private lunar landing

The last NASA lunar landing was in the 1970s, and for almost 50 years they haven't been back on the lunar surface. In December 2018, NASA announced its plan to return to the Moon with the help of 9 private companies. One of the companies, Astrobotic, is creating is a light-weight lunar rover of 4.4 lb. (2 kilograms) called CubeRover.

Project Scope

Leading a team of two designers to create the Map interface

Put simply, tele-operation means remote controlling the rover from Earth. To do so, there are several key features that must be designed - command line, a map, an image viewer, telemetry visualizations, and much more. I'm in charge of leading the design efforts to make sure we are able to plan, view, and execute the mission plans on a Map.

Mission Flow

Tele-operation begins the moment we deploy on the lunar surface.

Integration, launch, transit, landing and deployment will be taken care by Astrobotic. Once deployed on the lunar surface, the CubeRover tele-operations team take over and start to explore the lunar surface to conduct its science mission.

Communications Diagram

With so many teams and stakeholders, how do navigate the mission?

Robotics team, Science team, Operations team, Ground testing team - the sheer number of teams and members made the organization extremely difficult to navigate in a mission setting. Therefore we created a communication diagram to visualize the flow of information during the mission.

Feature Ideation

Creating a list of core features for the mission

Each teams perform different critical tasks to ensure the success of the mission.
We held a total of three different ideation sessions to come up with the minimum set of features that will allow us to conduct the bare minimum science mission on the Moon.

Performed with Systems Engineering Lead, Science Lead and Tele-operations Lead.

Design Explorations

Our team continuously iterated our designs through rigorous weekly feedbacks.

Since August 2018, our team has gone through rapid iterations of the Map interface by working tightly with the front-end engineers, Systems Engineering Lead and the Science Lead.

Mission Simulations

Running a virtual mission to test our designs

We don't have a solid user base we can test to iterate our work. For that reason, we hold a virtual paper mission, essentially a simulation of the part of our science mission, using the Unreal Engine 3, hooked up to our command line to simulate the mission, and test different aspects of our interface.

Designs

High-fidelity designs of the core Map features

Cosmos Design System

A design system for small-scale lunar missions

We created a design system in order to make sure that we were creating scalable designs for all the features of the TeleOps interface: Command Line, Map, Image Viewer, and the Telemetry.

Point of Interests

Identifying point of interests worth inspecting

Ability to mark objects on the map is crucial as we build the lunar map as we go. Synced with the image viewer, adding Point of Interests (PoI) on the map is effortless.

Circumnavigation

Closer inspection of the point of interests

The actual science mission requires taking pictures of Point of Interests (POIs) from multiple angles. The circumnavigation automates the process of plotting the photo course on the Map.