Michelin is to supply a specially designed wheel for NASA's next generation moon rover vehicles. Featuring highly specialized materials, this engineering breakthrough will enable the lunar vehicles to maintain their mobility in extreme conditions and over harsh terrain.
Made of patented composite materials, the structurally supported tire/wheel assembly was jointly developed by Michelin's European and North American research centers. As a result of this exclusive development, Michelin will help meet NASA's mobility needs for manned and unmanned missions to the moon over the next decade.
Based on the Michelin Tweel, the Michelin Lunar Wheel maintains flexibility and constant ground pressure, allowing the vehicle to move through loose soil and craters. In addition, it combines low weight and high load-carrying capacity, making it 3.3-times more efficient than the original Apollo Lunar Rover wheels.
Its textile tread, developed in partnership with Clemson University and Milliken & Company, enables the rover to maintain traction at very low temperatures.
The Michelin Lunar Wheel underwent testing in Hawaii at the end of 2008 as part of NASA's lunar analogue testing and evaluation program. The terrain, rock distribution and soil composition of Hawaii's Big Island provided a high-quality simulation of the lunar polar region.
The Michelin Lunar Wheel made its debut at the 56th US presidential inaugural celebration. Astronauts aboard NASA's latest Small Pressurized Lunar Rover prototype at the swearing-in ceremony for Barack Obama rolled down Pennsylvania Avenue on Michelin's non-pneumatic tire/wheel technology.
Long-time partners, Michelin has been supplying space shuttle tires to NASA for more than 20 years.
To learn more about the Tweel and passenger car applications for this technology, search for Tweel at YouTube.