Space startup Stells wants to install cargo covers for spacecraft on the moon's surface.

Space startup Stells wants to install cargo covers for spacecraft on the moon’s surface.

Portable charging has been possible for most mobile device owners. However, the latest company in space is looking to bring wireless charging to the moon and beyond, not for mobile phones, but for rovers landers.

Toronto-based Stells was founded by its CEO Alex Kapralov and CTO Vital Ioussoupov in 2021, it is creating a rover known as Mobile Power Rover (MPR-1) that will supply energy to lunar spacecraft via wireless charging. Stells has set a launch date for November 20, 2024, using the SpaceX Falcon 9 giant rocket and an Intuitive Machines Lander, which will make an expected launch on the moon scheduled for January 2025.

Stells was initially intrigued by the industry of lunar drilling, particularly within lunar craters. However, initial research showed that power sources for drilling rovers are likely to be expensive. That was the reason MPR-1 was created. 

Most of the spacecraft’s power comes from solar panels or radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG). Solar panels, naturally, are only used in regions that receive sunlight. Unfortunately, deep craters do not often receive sunlight. Solar panels also need lots of surfaces. With rovers as big as automobiles, such as those found on Mars, this isn’t an issue. However, the next generation of moon rovers is going to be smaller. NASA is one example. It is currently working on Called Cooperative Autonomous Distributed Robotic Explorers, which will be the sizes of shoe boxes.

However, RTG is not dependent on the sun but instead utilizes radiation decay from plutonium-238 to generate electricity. Therefore, it is inexpensive and may not be economical for small Rovers.

With the current focus on moon-related projects -for instance, Artemis 1, which began with just four CubeSats designed for the lunar surface (along with the six others destined for other places) MPR-1 could be extremely efficient.

“The way we’re planning on delivering power using a big box we call the wireless charging box or WCB,” says Kapralov. The WCB could harness the energy from solar panels. In cases of lunar craters, it’s going to place these on the rim of the crater, then power lines would be run down to the floor of the crater, where the WCB is placed.

The WCB will store the energy in its batteries and then transfer it rapidly to other rovers through wireless charging. The rovers that require a particular wireless charging port compatible with the wireless charging box would be able to locate the WCB by using a beacon or visual navigation. Since there is no air to block the power of wireless signals, this procedure would be more effective than it is on Earth.

In the previous two decades, there has been a huge interest in exploring the moon, and even though development is rampant, the results could have been much better. For instance, Google’s Lunar Xprize competition, for instance, saw companies develop lunar rovers in exchange for a $20 million prize. The contest started in 2007 and set an end date of 2014 for the lunar landing. However, when it became clear that nobody was ready by 2014, the deadline was extended until 2018.

Five teams did win the launch contract, Google ended the contest without any winners. Moon Express and Team Indus of these teams had their contracts canceled, while Hakuto/space and Synergy Moon are still working towards launching. SpaceIL, the fifth team SpaceIL launched to the moon in 2019. However, the landing attempt was unsuccessful.

The lunar industry is growing, and more lunar missions are getting closer to becoming a reality than ever before. Of course, it’s not guaranteed; there’s plenty of ground for well-meaning mistakes. However, the sky is the only limit for the dozens of businesses like Stells looking to make it there.


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