The Estonian Lunar Rover
KuupKulgur is a mission focused on developing and delivering Estonia”s first Lunar Rover to the surface of the Moon. The objective of this cube rover development mission is to create a flexible platform capable of accommodating various payloads to meet the diverse needs of companies in Estonia and abroad. The proposed KuupKulgur base rover design draws from the approach proposed by the Astrobotic CubeRover design, aiming to achieve a level of standardization towards small Lunar rover designs and miniaturized payload systems, a field which is expected to increase tenfold in size between now and the end of the decade.
Initial Proof of Concept Design
The initial concept design for KuupKulgur utilizes a base robotic platform and a cube-sat standard payload module. The illustrations below demonstrate the form-factor of KuupKulgur as a 2U cube rover. The flight controller module, avionics systems, motor drivers and batteries are designed to be housed within the base platform onto which the payload module can be installed. This allows for a modular approach towards the rover’s design.
The solar array for power generation is conceived to be installed on top of the payload module. However the exact dimensions and connection interfaces are being investigated during the feasibility study phase for the rover. Furthermore, the battery configuration will be determined during the feasibility study and aided by simulations and analog environment testing campaigns.
Concept model of the proposed KuupKulgur Design
The rover acts as a mobility service provider while also offering the payload with power, communication, and teleoperations.
Digital Twin Design Concept
The team of researchers and engineers at Tartu Observatory aims to utilize a digital twin approach to the design process by tightly incorporating the hyper photorealistic simulation environment, ULYSSES, which is developed in Unreal Engine 5 and the Tartu Observatory Space Missions Simulation Center.
KuupKulgur tested at Tartu Observatory Space Missions Simulation Center
KuupKulgur rover is rigorously tested in the Lunar Analogue Environment at the Tartu Observatory Space Missions Simulation Center. The data gathered and lessons learned from the physical experiments is then used to support the development of the physics based rover mobility simulations within ULYSSES.
KuupKulgur in ULYSSES (Digital twin)
The simulated model of KuupKulgur is tested on a digital twin of the Tartu Observatory Space Missions Simulation. This enables real-time mobility simulations, virtual data collection and physical constraint optimization that can be used to augment the design of KuupKulgur.

This approach allows for less lead time in validating design changes and fewer prototype development cycles for the various components of the rover. Consequently, the  development of the Digital Twin facilitates the evolution of the simulation environment, both in terms of its complexity and functionality.

KuupKulgur exploring a crater on the Lunar Surface
ULYSSES allows for hyper photo-realistic simulations of the Lunar surface using Digital Elevation Maps (DEMs) generated using remote sensing data from the Lunar Orbiter Satellites (such as NASA”s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter). Thus any future Lunar mission with KuupKulgur can be simulated with a high degree of confidence. The image above shows a simulation of KuupKulgur exploring a shadowed region of a crater on a Lunar landscape generated using remote sensing data for the Apollo 15 landing site.
KuupKulgur as a Payload Demonstrator Platform

Drawing from knowledge gained in our rover design methodology and experiences with the Proof of Concept (PoC) model, the Kuupkulgur team is now undertaking a significant initiative—the development of a versatile payload demonstration platform. This platform aims to assess low Technology Readiness Level (TRL) prototypes in a tailored environment at our dedicated Lunar analog
site within the Tartu Observatory.

The team have identified and refined key system design aspects, focusing on modularity to optimize payload system interfaces. This goal is to ensure smooth integration with the rover’s on-board power and computer systems, enhancing platform adaptability and paving the way for forward in Lunar surface operation payload testing technology

Current Version of the KuupKulgur Payload Demonstrator Model