• Who Are We?

    About Us

    Astrobotics is a design team based out of the Joseph F. Ware Advanced Engineering Laboratory that competes in the NASA Robotic Mining Competition. We are a senior design team for mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering. The team is currently comprised of 19 members: 13 seniors and 6 underclass volunteers. If you are a student at Virginia Tech and are interested in volunteering with team, click here.

    How the team works

    The engineers operate on a one-year design cycle, designing and fabricating the robot in-house at Virginia Tech’s Ware Lab. The engineers are organized into two sub-teams; mechanical design and autonomy.


    The team participates in multiple STEM based outreach activities throughout the year with a focus on hands-on activities. If you are interested in working with Astrobotics for an event, click here.


    What is the RMC (Robotic Mining Competition)?

    The NASA RMC is a design challenge for college teams based off of the current NASA mission of traveling to, and potentially inhabiting, Mars. Water is one of the most important factors for sustaining life, and it is theorized that water can be found in the form of icy gravel beneath the surface of Mars. The purpose of the RMC is for teams of college students to design and manufacture an autonomous Mars mining robot that is able to extract the aforementioned icy gravel.


    If you are interested in reading more about the rules of the competition, click here.

  • Mechanical Sub-Team

    This sub-team works on the design and manufacture of the robot and focuses on four main systems.

    If you're interested in volunteering for the team, click here.


    The locomotion system is what allows the robot to traverse the competition arena. Our team currently uses a tank treads design; however, there are other options that can be used as well. For many competition teams, wheels and treads are the most popular locomotion systems.


    The primary goal of the NASA Robotic Mining Competition is to mine as much gravel as possible, so the mining system is one of the most important and complex systems on the robot. There are many different mining systems that are used by teams in the competition. This year, our team is using a bucket elevator system for mining.


    In addition to mining the material, the team is required to dump all collected material in a bin placed in the mining arena. In order to do this successfully, often times a separate dumping mechanism is required. Two of the most commonly used dumping systems are the pivoted dump body and the conveyor belt dumping system. This year, the team is using a pivoted dump body for the dumping system.


    Controls is how the whole robot functions. It includes the analysis and use of sensors, motors, motor controllers, and batteries. By connecting these different parts together through the use of a microcontroller, the robot can be remotely controlled by a teleoperations system.

  • Autonomy Sub-Team

    The autonomy sub-team is responsible for having the robot navigate autonomously through the competition arena.

    If you're interested in volunteering for the team, click here.

    How does it work?

    The team creates a path planning intelligence using two systems: a Pozyx, which provides orientation data based off of the starting location, and a lidar, which provides accurate obstacle data points with respect to the robot. When this data is given to the D* algorithm in Simulink, the result is a continuously updated path for the robot to travel so that it can avoid boulders and craters while crossing the obstacle field.

  • How to Apply

    Fill out an Application Here!

    We'll be looking over these for the next week or two,

  • Thank you to our sponsors!


    Lockheed Martin


    Virginia Tech Student Engineers' Council

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  • Contact Us

    Learn more about how you can join our team