Providing Wired Power and Data in Lunar Permanently Shadowed Regions with a Rover-Deployed Superconducting Tether

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


The tethered permanently shadowed region explorer (T-REX) is an infrastructure technology pathfinder mission whose goal is to provide reliable power recharging and a communication link to other operations within PSRs of the Moon, where conventional line-of-sight radiofrequency (RF) communications and solar power generation are limited. The T-REX rover will deploy upwards of 2 km of superconducting tether in series with a 250 m conventional conductor tether connected to a commercial lunar payload services (CLPS) lander. This technology demonstration mission utilizes the cryogenic temperatures and low-noise environments within PSRs to its advantage to minimize cable mass and extend the mission lifetime of other missions in the PSRs. The initial demonstration mission (according to the competition rules, but based on CLPS provider information) would be limited in the worst case to the power and data capacities from the CLPS lander to transmit up to 8 W continuous and 40 W peak of power and 70 kb/s/kg of payload of data over a superconducting tether. The rover will store excess power from the lander to recharge other systems operating within the PSR via a HOTDOCK docking interface provided by Space Application Services. T-REX will additionally function as a repeater for local missions by connecting a wireless network the rover establishes within the PSR to the CLPS lander over VDSL2 protocol. This paper will discuss the development and testing of the T-REX rover tethered power and communications payload system. Development is done at a subsystem level initially, culminating after several iterations into integration and testing of the full system inside the dusty thermal vacuum chamber of Dr. van Susante's Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab at MTU.

Publication Title

Earth and Space 2021: Space Exploration, Utilization, Engineering, and Construction in Extreme Environments - Selected Papers from the 17th Biennial International Conference on Engineering, Science, Construction, and Operations in Challenging Environments