Research Papers

Performance Analysis and Technical Feasibility Assessment of a Transforming Roving-Rolling Explorer Rover for Mars Exploration

[+] Author and Article Information
Lionel E. Edwin

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering,
North Carolina State University,
Raleigh, NC 27695
e-mail: ledwin@ncsu.edu

Jason D. Denhart

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering,
North Carolina State University,
Raleigh, NC 27695
e-mail: jddenhar@ncsu.edu

Thomas R. Gemmer

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering,
North Carolina State University,
Raleigh, NC 27695
e-mail: trgemmer@ncsu.edu

Scott M. Ferguson

Assistant Professor
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering,
North Carolina State University,
Raleigh, NC 27695
e-mail: scott_ferguson@ncsu.edu

Andre P. Mazzoleni

Associate Professor
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering,
North Carolina State University,
Raleigh, NC 27695
e-mail: a_mazzoleni@ncsu.edu

Contributed by the Design Automation Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANICAL DESIGN. Manuscript received June 7, 2013; final manuscript received March 27, 2014; published online May 5, 2014. Assoc. Editor: Irem Y. Tumer.

J. Mech. Des 136(7), 071010 (May 05, 2014) (11 pages) Paper No: MD-13-1248; doi: 10.1115/1.4027336 History: Received June 07, 2013; Revised March 27, 2014

This paper explores a two state rover concept called the Transforming Roving-Rolling Explorer (TRREx). The first state allows the rover to travel like a conventional 6-wheeled rover. The second state is a sphere to permit faster descent of steep inclines. Performance of this concept is compared to a traditional rocker-bogie (RB) architecture using hi-fidelity simulations in Webots. Results show that for missions involving very rugged terrain, or a considerable amount of downhill travel, the TRREx outperforms the rocker-bogie. Locomotion of the TRREx system using a continuous shifting of the center of mass through “actuated rolling” is also explored. A dynamics model for a cylindrical representation of the rover is simulated to identify feasible configurations capable of generating and maintaining continuous rolling motion even on sandy terrain. Results show that in sufficiently benign terrain gradual inclines can be traversed with actuated rolling. This model allows for increased exploration of the problem's design space and assists in establishing parameters for an Earth prototype.

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Fig. 1

TRREx rover configuration change

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Fig. 3

Raw data from Webots simulations

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Fig. 6

External forces on the cylindrical TRREx

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Fig. 2

Testing models used in Webots, TRREx (left), and rocker-bogie (right)

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Fig. 5

Definition of frames

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Fig. 4

Cylindrical version of the TRREx

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Fig. 7

Actuated rolling of Candidate 2 up a slope on moderate terrain on Earth

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Fig. 8

Actuated rolling of Candidate 3 on difficult terrain on Mars




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