Rocket Lab USA has been selected by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to supply solar panels that will power NASA’s shoe-box-sized mobile robots as part of the Cooperative Autonomous Distributed Robotic Explorers (CADRE) program.
The solar panels will use Rocket Lab’s inverted metamorphic multi-junction (IMM) solar cells that are more efficient and lighter weight than standard multi-junction space solar cells and provide the exact capabilities needed for the program. The IMM cells were developed by SolAero Technologies Inc, a leading space solar power company acquired by Rocket Lab in January 2022.
IMM solar cells are a superior type of space-grade solar cell, providing best-in-class efficiency with 40% lower mass than typical space-grade solar cells. IMM is also powering General Atomics’ GAzelle spacecraft, which Rocket Lab launched as part of its 31st Electron mission earlier this month.
The CADRE robots are the next generation of NASA’s Autonomous Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robots (A-PUFFER) technology. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is designing the CADRE robots to be able to explore as a group to collect data in the hardest-to-reach places on the Moon, Mars and beyond.
“We’re incredibly proud to be supporting innovative new means of space exploration,” said Brad Clevenger, Rocket Lab’s Vice President of Space Systems “The CADRE program could help map unexplored regions on the Moon and access hard-to-reach parts of Mars, expanding our understanding of distant planets and Moon.”
CADRE is targeted to fly as a technology demonstration on a commercial robotic lander within the next five years through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services Initiative.