Hopping, acrobatics and flipping over are not standard maneuvers we would design from a booster exploring other worlds. Traditional Mars rovers, for example, hurl around on wheels, and they can’t work upside-down. But on a tiny body, such as an asteroid or a comet, a low-gravity conditions and severe surfaces make normal pushing all a some-more hazardous.
Enter Hedgehog: a new judgment for a drudge that is privately designed to overcome a hurdles of traversing tiny bodies. The plan is being jointly grown by researchers during NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California; Stanford University in Stanford, California; and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
“Hedgehog is a opposite kind of drudge that would bound and decrease on a aspect instead of rolling on wheels. It is made like a brick and can work no matter that side it lands on,” pronounced Issa Nesnas, personality of a JPL team.
The simple judgment is a brick with spikes that moves by spinning and braking inner flywheels. The spikes strengthen a robot’s physique from a turf and act as feet while hopping and tumbling.
“The spikes could also residence instruments such as thermal probes to take a heat of a aspect as a drudge tumbles,” Nesnas said.
Two Hedgehog prototypes — one from Stanford and one from JPL — were tested aboard NASA’s C-9 aircraft for microgravity investigate in Jun 2015. During 180 parabolas, over a march of 4 flights, these robots demonstrated several forms of maneuvers that would be useful for removing around on tiny bodies with reduced gravity. Researchers tested these maneuvers on opposite materials that impersonate a far-reaching operation of surfaces: sandy, severe and rocky, sleazy and icy, and soothing and crumbly.
“We demonstrated for a initial time a Hedgehog prototypes behaving tranquil hopping and acrobatics in comet-like environments,” pronounced Robert Reid, lead operative on a plan during JPL.
Hedgehog’s simplest scheme is a “yaw,” or a spin in place. After indicating itself in a right direction, Hedgehog can possibly bound prolonged distances regulating one or dual spikes or decrease brief distances by rotating from one face to another. Hedgehog typically takes vast hops toward a aim of interest, followed by smaller tumbles as it gets closer.
During one of a experiments on a parabolic flights, a researchers reliable that Hedgehog can also perform a “tornado” maneuver, in that a drudge aggressively spins to launch itself from a surface. This scheme could be used to shun from a sandy sinkhole or other situations in that a drudge would differently be stuck.
The JPL Hedgehog antecedent has 8 spikes and 3 flywheels. It weighs about 11 pounds (5 kilograms) by itself, though a researchers prognosticate that it could import some-more than 20 pounds (9 kilograms) with instruments such as cameras and spectrometers. The Stanford antecedent is somewhat smaller and lighter, and it has shorter spikes.
Both prototypes scheme by spinning and interlude 3 inner flywheels regulating motors and brakes. The braking mechanisms differ between a dual prototypes. JPL’s chronicle uses front brakes, and Stanford’s antecedent uses attrition belts to stop a flywheels abruptly.
“By determining how we stop a flywheels, we can adjust Hedgehog’s hopping angle. The thought was to exam a dual braking systems and know their advantages and disadvantages,” pronounced Marco Pavone, personality of a Stanford team, who creatively due Hedgehog with Nesnas in 2011.
“The geometry of a Hedgehog spikes has a good change on a hopping trajectory. We have experimented with several spike configurations and found that a brick figure provides a best hopping performance. The brick structure is also easier to make and package within a spacecraft,” pronounced Benjamin Hockman, lead operative on a plan during Stanford.
The researchers are now operative on Hedgehog’s autonomy, perplexing to boost how most a robots can do by themselves but instructions from Earth. Their thought is that an orbiting mothership would send signals to and from a robot, identical to how NASA’s Mars rovers Curiosity and Opportunity promulgate around satellites orbiting Mars. The mothership would also assistance a robots navigate and establish their positions.
The construction of a Hedgehog drudge is comparatively low-cost compared to a normal rover, and several could be finished together for flight, a researchers say. The mothership could recover many robots during once or in stages, vouchsafing them widespread out to make discoveries on a universe never traversed before.
Hedgehog is now in Phase II growth by a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program, and is led by Pavone. The moody growth and contrast were upheld by NASA’s Center Innovation Fund (CIF) and NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program (FOP), that were led by Nesnas. NIAC, CIF and FOP are programs in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, located during a agency’s domicile in Washington. JPL is managed by a California Institute of Technology for NASA. Stanford University, MIT and JPL combine on a project.