You’re reading the official blog of the University of Surrey ESA Lunar Robotics Challenge team. We’ll be regularly updating this site with pictures, videos and info as we progress through the design and construction of a rover suitable for use in a Lunar environment over the next 4 months.
Firstly, a little background. This summer ESA, the European Space Agency, selected 8 universities across Europe to take part in a Lunar Robotics Challenge. The task is to develop a mobile robot capable of descending into a lunar crater up to 15m deep, down a slope of up to 40°, exploring and searching for soil samples, collecting these samples and returning them back to a lander outside the crater. Simple. The Surrey Space Centre based here at the University of Surrey has a very rich history of successful space technology development. We’re planning on using this experience to help build a fully functional lunar rover capable of winning the ESA challenge.
Our team is a group of Surrey students led by Dr Vaios Lappas, Senior Lecturer in Space Vehicle Control.
Our student team includes myself, Chris Brunskill as the team captain and lead systems engineer.
Beatrice Smith, as a lead systems engineer.
Samian Humphrey, working on our communications system.
Akhmer Ahmad, developing the robotic arm control software.
Shakeel Baig, a power engineer.
Yen and Michel both working on the vision and navigation systems.
Chen, working on the mobility system.
Gareth Meirion-Griffith, analysing the traction properties of our designs.
Our rover, named after the mythological Greek Goddess of the Moon “Selene“, is based on a Mobile Robots Pioneer 3-AT. This is a durable platform suitable for off-road use with a whole suite of instruments and accessories (such as cameras, robotic arms and laser range finders) and an extensive development software suite. In its base specification it’s probably not much use in a lunar environment, although its out-of-the-box capabilities at tackling tricky terrain make it a great platform to build on.
We’ve spent some time investigating the P3-ATs mobility and looking at how it can be adapted to the dusty, loose terrain found in a lunar crater. We’ve started by considering how an adapted wheel and suspension system could be implemented. The picture below shows a P3-AT with its standard wheels intact, however its mobility has been enhanced with the addition of a pair of wheels and suspension arms at the front, making the rover more suited to attacking sloped terrain.
Alternatively a P3-AT with two additional wheels and a full suspension system could be used, allowing better distribution of weight to achieve better traction.
We’ve also been brainstorming designs which will allow us to adapt the P3-AT chassis to take a track-based mobility system. Here is a very simple example using the existing wheel hubs and standard wheel-sized sprockets.
And here’s a couple of more complicated designs. These were suggested to enable maximum surface contact area for good traction:
And to retain as much contact as possible while allowing for a more flexible suspension-type system to be implemented:
Once the mobility design is up and running the instruments allowing us to see where we’re going and to collect the samples can be added!
Hopefully that’s given a pretty good insight into what we’re up to down here in sunny Guildford! The blog will be updated weekly at a minimum so subscribe to the RSS feed or check back regularly for new content.
Finally a big thanks to our sponsors for this project: