project image or logo
CADRE Mission logo. Source: JPL/NASA


picture of a CADRE rover
Test rovers for CADRE

CADRE is a mission to the moon that includes a base station and three rovers for exploring the lunar surface and subsurface. Once deployed, the rovers will autonomously coordinate their activities to safely and efficiently drive and collect scientific data. This includes: electing a leader, dividing up the work among the rovers, developing hazard-free drive paths, map construction, formation driving, and performing synchronized measurements using ground-penetrating radar (GPR). Coordinated GPR measurements enable the construction of 3D maps of the lunar subsurface. The three rovers will work together to explore the surface near the landing site during a single Lunar day (about 10 Earth days).

diagram of autonomous mapping and sensing activities
Diagram of key autonomous activities


Autonomously plan and execute tasks for multiple rovers, coordinating scientific measurements and resource management.


CADRE will demonstrate a cooperative and collaborative autonomous platform for navigation, communication, computation, perception, and decision-making without human interaction for exploring extreme lunar and planetary terrains.


As of late 2022, CADRE is in Phase B under the Game Changing Development (GCD) program of the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). CADRE is manifested as a payload on the CP11 (CLPS)/ Intuitive Machines (IM-3) mission, scheduled to launch on a Falcon-9 rocket on April 15th, 2024, with a landing site at Reiner Gamma.


CADRE autonomy architecture
Diagram of the planned architecture

Specifically, the AI group is providing support for the “Strategic Planner”, which is part of a multi-layered autonomy flight software system. Using MEXEC, the Strategic Planner is responsible for deciding when to perform the surveys, and when the rovers should “sleep” to allow the electronics to cool down and the battery to recharge. The environment on the Moon is extreme, with temperatures ranging from 140 °C to −171. Around “midday” on the Moon, temperatures are too hot to keep the rover electronics powered on continuously. Around “morning” and “evening”, while temperatures are cooler, the Sun is providing less energy for the rovers to perform their activities. By monitoring actual temperature and energy levels, and predicting levels from the effects of planned activities, the Strategic Planner will schedule coordinated tasks to ensure that the rovers are making efficient use of their limited time on the Moon while staying within operational limits.

Tasks and timelines
CADRE Scheduler: Example activity plan and predicted resources, generated by MEXEC and shown in the CTV user interface

Additionally, the AI group is supporting the CADRE V&V team, specifically with autonomy testing to ensure all layers of the autonomy stack work as intended when integrated together. Autonomy testing will be conducted through both simulations and working with actual test rovers.




Dr. Federico Rossi (element lead)
Gregg Rabideau
Andrew Branch
Joseph Russino
Nihal Dhamani
Dr. Steve Chien (advisor)


Space Technology Mission Directorate