Venturi Group has developed breakthrough technology to create the world’s first ever hyper-deformable lunar wheel, which will allow its FLEX rover to better navigate rough terrain when it lands on the Moon in 2026.
On Monday 19th June, Venturi Group presented its latest invention at the international Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, France. The hyper-deformable lunar wheel was designed and manufactured in the Venturi Lab in Fribourg, Switzerland with materials that it had specifically created for this purpose.
The world-first marks a turning point in the history of the space industry. In the past, with the exception of the Apollo missions, space exploration vehicles have always been equipped with rigid wheels. The Venturi wheel, however, is highly deformable while remaining long-lasting and robust.
The wheel will be used on Venturi Astrolab’s FLEX rover, a vehicle that will be deposited on the Moon in 2026 by Space X’s Starship rocket and initially used to transport and deploy payloads.
The four wheels supporting the two-tonne FLEX vehicle (payload included) will warp in order to absorb ground irregularities as the FLEX travels at 20 km/h in extreme temperatures as low as -230°C. The wheels will need to perform over at least 1,000 kilometres and resist strong radiation from the south pole.
Venturi reinvents the wheel
To achieve this breakthrough, which is as important as the invention of the rubber and later the pneumatic-rimmed tyre in the 19th century, the Swiss teams led by Dr. Antonio Delfino developed a system that required the invention of new materials.
The Venturi wheel uses a complex system of 192 cables that act as spokes, an outer rim equipped with springs and a tread made flexible by newly invented materials.
NASA has selected Venturi Astrolab to test and analyse the Venturi wheel at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Venturi Astrolab is an American-owned company and strategic partner of Venturi, based in Monaco, and Venturi Lab in Switzerland.
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Featured photo source: Venturi Group