Astrobotic Technology will incorporate this device into its ongoing development efforts for prospecting rovers and resource-excavation rovers that will conduct the company's commercial lunar expeditions. Astrobotic's focus on resource extraction requires heavy interaction with lunar soil for drilling, digging and dozing, all of which are made more challenging by the reduced traction available in one-sixth gravity. The gravity offload device will ensure that Astrobotic designs and mechanisms can be tested in the relevant environment. Non NASA applications include foreign space agencies, university research (domestic and foreign) in reduced gravity mechanics, as well as several competitors to Astrobotic who also plan to carry out commercial lunar missions with mobility.
Notable applications relevant to NASA for reduced gravity include: terramechanics, wheel-soil interaction for Mars/Lunar wheeled vehicles, lightweight robotic excavation performance, habitat deployment, and astronaut mobility. Long-standing relationship exists between Carnegie Mellon University and NASA Glenn for terramechanics and wheel-soil interaction research. NASA Glenn's SLOPE lab is the source of wheel design and testing for the majority of NASA rovers. The gravity offload device will be developed in close cooperation with NASA Glenn, which desires gravity offload for lunar and Mars relevant testing, which accelerates the TRL of NASA rover wheel development. Astrobotic Technology is currently building a lightweight robotic excavator under a NASA SBIR Phase II. Robotic excavators are a necessary precursor to sustained human occupation. Gravity offload of excavators validates performance in a relevant environment and accelerates the TRL of essential excavation technology.