This electric and solar-powered FLEX Rover is hitching a ride with SpaceX to study the moon

With its solar-powered electric Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) Rover, Venturi Astrolab is on a mission to move humanity forward by designing and building interplanetary vehicles designed to transport people and cargo. Venturi announced Friday that its FLEX Rover will be launched on an upcoming SpaceX mission as the largest and most capable rover to travel the moon.

A new solar-powered electric FLEX rover will study the moon

Venturi Astrolab was established in 2021 and includes a team of highly specialized former NASA, SpaceX, and JPL engineers with experience in planetary robotics, electric vehicles, spaceflight, and more.

The Venturi Astrolab is part of the Venturi Group, which has specialized in designing and building high-performance electric vehicles since 2000.

Venturi Group President Gildo Pastor envisioned the electric lunar rover program in 2019, creating Venturi Lab shortly after. The three companies (Venturi Group, Venturi Astrolab, and Venturi Lab) are collaborating on the FLEX rover initiative.

Venturi Group will bring its expertise in building high-performance batteries. Venturi Labs creates materials resistant to extreme temperatures and radiation, as well as high-performance solar panels, deformable wheels, and electronic control systems.

Meanwhile, Venturi Astrolab is designing the electric rover’s architecture, structure, and mechanisms, alongside developing its software and avionics, and assembly.

Astrolab Flex Rover (Source: Astroloab)

The Flex electric Rover features a deployable 3m² solar array that can stow away during high-intensity operations. The vehicle’s four-wheel crab-walk feature allows it to keep the solar panels facing the sun while driving while the energy is stored in the FLEX’s internal batteries.

Astrolab revealed Friday it has reached an agreement with SpaceX to transport the FLEX rover on an upcoming mission to the moon as soon as mid-2026.

Once landed, the FLEX rover will be the largest and most capable rover to touch down and travel on the moon.

More than a rover, FLEX is a logistics system

Jared Mathews, founder and CEO of Astrolab, says the team has “created much more than a rover for use on the Moon or Mars.” He explains:

We’ve created a logistics system that can accommodate a wide variety of cargo. We expect that this approach will help establish a permanent lunar outpost on the Moon at a lower cost and in less time than previously envisioned.

The FLEX rover includes a highly dexterous six-degree-of-freedom robotic arm and remote science mast to pick up and examine objects. With the remote science masts stereo cameras, the rover can see the field in 3D.

Astrolab Flex Rover (Source: Astrolab)

In addition, a suite of sensors allows the FLEX can operate semiautonomously, allowing it to self-align with and pick up payloads.

SpaceX’s senior VP of commercial business added:

Developing sustainable outposts will require lunar logistics and transportation on the surface of the Moon, like what Astrolab offers. We look forward to working with the Astrolab team to deliver their FLEX Rover to the surface of the Moon.

Testing of the electric Flex Rover is ongoing, with the team testing a full-scale, fully functional prototype in the California desert last year. Astrolab says testing has continued in lunar analog sites and will continue throughout this year as it prepares for liftoff.

SpaceX will use the starship launch and landing system for the mission “as soon as mid-2026,” which it could get its launch license for within the next two weeks for. Learn more about SpaceX’s Starship launch here.

More details about the FLEX rover electric powertrain, battery system, and solar panels are expected soon. Check back for details.

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