Development of a Small, Lightweight Rover with Elastic Wheels for Lunar Exploration
Kojiro Iizuka*1, Tatsuya Sasaki*2, Hidenori Hama*2,
Atsuro Nishitani*2, Takeshi Kubota*3, and Ichiro Nakatani*4
*1International Young Researchers Empowerment Center, Shinshu University, 3-15-1 Tokida, Ueda-shi, Nagano 386-8567, Japan
*2Graduate School of Science and Technology, Shinshu University, 3-15-1 Tokida, Ueda-shi, Nagano 386-8567, Japan
*3IHI Corporation, 1-1 Toyoshu, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-8719, Japan
*4Department of Electronic Control and Robot Engineering, Aichi University of Technology, 50-2 Manori, Nishihazama-cho, Gamagori-shi, Aichi 443-0047, Japan
Rovers are one of the most important vehicles used for conducting planetary exploration missions. This paper focuses on a small, lightweight rover that can be used for lunar exploration. It should be noted that, with a small rover, it is difficult to traverse loose soil such as that on the lunar surface. The rocks that cover the lunar surface, moreover, hinder the traversal of a small, lightweight rover. We develop a small, lightweight rover having 2 configurations to solve these tasks. One configuration involves the installation of elastic wheels whose 2 form changes depending on the surface that the rover traverses. The other configuration involves passive suspension using differential gears. We perform running experiments on rovers with these configurations. Experimental results prove that elastic wheels are more efficient than rigid wheels for traversing loose soil. We also found, moreover, that the proposed rover shows good climbing performance. We thus have shown the efficiency of the proposed small, lightweight rover in this study.
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