A floating train on the Moon


A floating train on the Moon, the extravagant idea that NASA puts back on the table
NASA’s FLOAT project will provide payload transport on the Moon and is estimated to be ready in the 2030s.
Three years ago , NASA began to consider the idea of ​​developing the first train on the Moon to create a completely autonomous transportation system. This project was named FLOAT , was considered a key initiative for the future daily operations of a sustainable lunar base, and was estimated to be ready in the 2030s .

Now, after these years, the US space agency is once again ‘resurrecting’ the FLOAT project under the mandate of “building the first lunar railway system, which will provide useful , reliable, autonomous and efficient cargo transportation on the Moon.” But how will this train work to meet transportation needs?

NASA explains on its official blog that the FLOAT system will employ motorless magnetic robots that levitate on a three-layer flexible film track:

  • A layer of graphite will allow the robots to passively float on the tracks using diamagnetic levitation.
  • A layer of flexible circuitry that will generate electromagnetic thrust to controllably propel the robots along tracks.
  • And lastly, the thin film solar panel layer will generate power for the base when exposed to sunlight.

FLOAT tracks would extend directly over the lunar regolith to avoid major construction on the site, unlike conventional roads, railways or cable cars. Individual FLOAT robots could therefore transport payloads of different shapes and sizes at useful speeds, while a large-scale FLOAT system would be capable of moving several kilograms of lunar regolith per day.

Additionally, FLOAT is planned to operate autonomously in the dusty, inhospitable lunar environment with minimal site preparation, because “its track network can be rolled/reconfigured over time to adapt to the changing requirements of the mission.” the lunar base.”

The second phase of the project begins

After passing the first phase of the project, in this second stage, NASA continues to ” eliminate the risks related to the manufacture, implementation, control and long-term operation of robots that support human exploration (HEO) activities on the Moon”, achieving the following key tasks:

  • Design, manufacture and test a series of subscale robot/track prototypes.
  • Investigate the impacts of environmental effects on system performance and longevity.
  • Define a technology roadmap to address technology gaps and mature manufacturing capacity for critical hardware.
  • Refine simulations of FLOAT system designs with greater fidelity to provide improved performance estimates under the RLSO2 mission concept.

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