Plans for establishing a long-term human presence on the Moon will require substantial increases in robot autonomy and multi-robot coordination to support establishing a lunar outpost. To achieve these objectives, algorithm design choices for the software developments need to be tested and validated for expected scenarios such as autonomous in-situ resource utilization (ISRU), localization in challenging environments, and multi-robot coordination. However, real-world experiments are extremely challenging and limited for extraterrestrial environment. Also, realistic simulation demonstrations in these environments are still rare and demanded for initial algorithm testing capabilities. To help some of these needs, the NASA Centennial Challenges program established the Space Robotics Challenge Phase 2 (SRC2) which consist of virtual robotic systems in a realistic lunar simulation environment, where a group of mobile robots were tasked with reporting volatile locations within a global map, excavating and transporting these resources, and detecting and localizing a target of interest. The main goal of this article is to share our team's experiences on the design trade-offs to perform autonomous robotic operations in a virtual lunar environment and to share strategies to complete the mission requirements posed by NASA SRC2 competition during the qualification round. Of the 114 teams that registered for participation in the NASA SRC2, team Mountaineers finished as one of only six teams to receive the top qualification round prize.
Team Mountaineers launched efforts on the NASA Space Robotics Challenge Phase-2 (SRC2). The challenge will be held on the lunar terrain with virtual robotic platforms to establish an in-situ resource utilization process. In this report, we provide an overview of a simulation environment, a virtual mobile robot, and a software architecture that was created by Team Mountaineers in order to prepare for the competition's qualification round before the competition environment was released.