NASA has prepared a clean, controlled facility where personnel would assemble an upcoming lunar rover, which will travel to the Moon's south pole in search of ice and water.
The space agency said Wednesday that it established the Surface Segment Integration and Test Facility at Houston-based Johnson Space Center for the assembly of the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER).
The cleanroom, which measures over 1,000 square feet, features new particle counters and air filtration units designed to maintain the facility's cleanliness. NASA must make sure that the rover is not contaminated with anything that would interfere with the spacecraft's solar arrays and scientific measurement tools.
The team in charge of the rover also built a full-scale VIPER replica to practice for the actual vehicle's assembly over a three-month rehearsal period. David Petri, system integration and test lead for VIPER, said his team needs to immediately address errors that might affect the rover's development timeline.
The space agency wants to build VIPER by summer 2022, before the launch scheduled for 2023. VIPER's findings would support NASA's Artemis program, an effort to revive manned space exploration.