Drivetrain Test Bed Rover
The latest Drivetrain Test Bed Rover developed by Andrews Space and University of Washington students demonstrates that the Rocket City Space Pioneers (RCSP) lunar rover tasks are literally moving very quickly. It is exciting to see the many creative ideas everyone is turning into hardware and experimenting with. The best part about designing a lunar rover is there is no “right” way to do it. There are plenty of common and good ways to do it, but the research field for extraterrestrial robotic rovers is still very young.
Rover shortly after it was assembled
Our toughest design challenges stem from making the rover as light and as energy efficient as possible. Our rover is not much bigger than a shoebox. Our tiny rover will climb into and out of craters that look like the Grand Canyon in comparison to its size while it helps us answer the simple question of “what’s beyond the next hill?” To answer this question, we have many groups working on different parts of the rover.
Our partner, Andrews Space, with the help of the University of Washington (UW), is designing our space hardware for the rover.
UW students working on the rover’s assembly
This group’s first prototype will help them test various wheel designs and their mechanical systems. This prototype is truly a lunar rover; it uses motors chosen specifically for the Moon’s weaker gravity environment which is 1/6 of that on Earth. When it is fully loaded with all its electronics, solar panels, and cameras, the prototype rover will need help getting around in Earth’s stronger gravity environment.
Here's some video of the rover driving around a room. It will be interesting to see how it performs in a more challenging environment. Andrews Space is located near Mt. St. Helen's, so an excursion across volcanic ash may be in this little rover's future.
Rover Systems Integrator, Dynetics