NASA will create a network of levitation trains on the Moon to connect human scientific bases

NASA will create a network of levitation trains on the Moon to connect human scientific bases
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One of the great objectives of projects like Artemis is to colonize the Moon—in addition to Mars—. A colossal task that has been explored in Spain and around the world, and that despite how complicated it is, requires significant infrastructure. NASA has given details of a lunar railway system that uses a robotic train that levitates over the tracks, a project coming from 2021.

We talk about FLOAT, or “Flexible Levitation on a Track” system, for its acronym in English. The space agency defines this project as a lunar railway system based on a robotic transportation system that serves as the heart of the operations that will presumably be carried out in humanity’s future lunar bases in the 1930s.

NASA explains how this FLOAT system would be used of small magnetic robots without motor capable of levitating on a track made of a flexible three-layer film. The tracks on which this railway system would run would extend directly over the lunar regolith with the idea to avoid large constructions in the place, something common when building roads and the like.

Robotic trains on the Moon

The robots proposed by NASA around the FLOAT system would levitate on a track built in three layers: a graphite layer, a flexible circuit layer, and a layer made of solar panels — this being optional. Each one established with a very clear function to guarantee the correct functioning of this lunar robotic train in its operations.

The first layer, the graphite one, would allow robots to float on FLOAT tracks through the phenomenon of diamagnetic levitation, which allows certain magnetic fields to repel each other through materials. The flexible circuit layer would be responsible for generating an electromagnetic push to propel these robots along the tracks in a controlled manner.

One of the first artistic representations of the project, in 2021.

Ethan Schaler


Finally there is the layer of solar panels, a thin film that would generate the necessary energy for the base when exposed to the sun. This layer, in the words of NASA, would be optional, which gives more versatility to the execution and implementation of the FLOAT pathways. Through these routes, FLOAT robots They could transport payloads of about 30 kilos across the Moon at useful speeds of around 0.5 meters per second.

NASA explains that to avoid problems such as abrasion or wear of the tracks caused by lunar dust from the satellite, the robots They will not have moving parts susceptible to problems. The levitation of the robots on the tracks will contribute to their conservation in their tasks, prolonging their useful life.


AI generated image depicting a train on the Moon.

Manuel Fernandez on Bing


In this way, the space agency believes that by using a large-scale FLOAT system they will be able to move up to 100,000 kilos of regolith several kilometers per day. In addition, the system will operate autonomously and will require little preparation of the installation site, since its network of tracks can be rolled up and reconfigured, increasing its adaptability capacity.

FLOAT’s primary objectives will include transporting mined regolith for ISRU consumables or construction purposes, as well as transporting payloads around both lunar bases and landing zones on the Moon. The project will consist two phases, The second being the implementation stage of FLOAT on the lunar surface.

[La técnica de la NASA contra el peligroso polvo lunar: así se protegerán del regolito los astronautas de Artemis]

At this stage, NASA wants to ensure that all risks and problems arising from the manufacture, deployment and control of these robots are eliminated in the long term, with the idea of ​​​​supporting what the agency calls human exploration activities (HEO) on the moon. It is a critical phase for the project, because it involves , manufacture and test prototypes of subscale robots and tracks.

The objectives of Phase 2 are varied. For example, NASA wants to test the extent to which the Moon’s environmental effects impact the performance and longevity of the FLOAT system. On the other hand, a roadmap will be defined to “address technological gaps and mature manufacturing capacity to hardware critical,” according to NASA.

It should be noted that the agency will take advantage of the project and the prototypes that arise from this initiative to “explore opportunities for demonstrations of tracking technology in suborbital flights.” […] or demonstrations of lunar technology […]”Once these prototypes are manufactured and tested, NASA will carry out the corresponding tests on a special test bench that imitates the lunar conditions that the FLOAT system will face.



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