Planetary Rover Hybrid Locomotion-System Design

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2006

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Having already proven their worth several times in extraterrestrial environments, rovers can be highly versatile and valuable machines. Previous rovers have been designed to transport astronauts and materials, perform strenuous tasks that an astronaut in a pressurized suit may be unable to do, analyze foreign substances, create virtual maps of regions, and serve as a life support platform to increase operational safety and chances of mission success. However, a successful rover design is often difficult to engineer and manufacture. Before a rover can be considered a valuable asset to mission success, it must be capable of operating in a variety of conditions and without requiring a great deal of human supervision. Specifically, it must be able to traverse irregular and treacherous terrain in a timely and efficient manner; it must be able to safely go where an astronaut can travel, and, in some cases, go and return from areas deemed too dangerous for human exploration. To do this, the rover needs an effective, yet simple locomotion system capable of crossing relatively flat terrain quickly and efficiently while also capable of adapting to rough terrain without undue difficulty. Inspired by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer (ATHLETE) and the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) RHex, this paper proposes a simple experimental prototype locomotion system design that enables a rover to alternate between alkingand ollingmodes to successfully navigate variable and unpredictable terrain.

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