The innovative Venturi Group, based in Monaco, has crafted an invention that is poised to significantly transform the history of the space industry. On Monday, they unveiled the Venturi wheel, a lunar wheel that exhibits extreme deformability, at the International Aerospace and Space Show in Bourget.
This remarkable creation is akin to the introduction of the rubber tire and the pneumatic tire around the 19th-century wheel rims. It represents a major breakthrough in the realm of space exploration and will play a pivotal role in outfitting the Venturi Astrolab's FLEX rover.
Historically, rigid wheels have been the norm for the majority of vehicles used in space exploration, with the exception of those used in the Apollo missions. Venturi's wheel, however, offers the capability of extreme deformation while remaining durable and robust.
This unique feature will be tested under extreme conditions when the FLEX rover goes into operation at the lunar South Pole in 2026. With temperatures fluctuating between -90°C and -230°C, the four wheels will be subjected to extreme conditions. They will need to support the rover's two-tonne mass and endure the surface irregularities of the moon by deforming as necessary. All of this will happen while the rover is moving at a speed of 20 km/h.
The wheel will also have to be robust enough to endure over 1,000 kilometers and resist the high radiation levels at the lunar South Pole.
To facilitate its implementation, Venturi Astrolab has been selected by NASA to test and analyze the Venturi wheel at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The FLEX rover, currently designed for the transport of payloads, will be deposited on the moon in 2026 by SpaceX's Starship rocket. It is fitted with the Venturi wheel, a global first that promises to be a game-changer in space exploration.