4595 / Evaluation and comparison of driving performance of a lunar exploration rover wheel in...

Paper presented at the 16th European-African Regional Conference of the ISTVS


Title: Evaluation and comparison of driving performance of a lunar exploration rover wheel in different soils

Authors: Keisuke Takehana, Shino Kizaki, Kentaro Uno, Tomomi Tanaka, Gentaro Suda, and Kazuya Yoshida

Abstract: Wheeled mobile robots, rovers, are highly effective in lunar exploration as they can move the Moon's surface for detailed exploration. However, the lunar regolith, soft soil with fine powdery sand, can cause wheel slippage, resulting in an inability to travel for the rover. To analyze the driving performance of a rover wheel, a single-wheel testbed is usually used. In our experiment, force sensors mounted on the wheel measure the reaction force, which allows computing the wheel's traction performance evaluation criteria based on the Terramechanics theory. This system can control the rotation and translation of the wheels separately, realizing experiments in any slippage condition. This method can measure accurate traction data under more precise slip ratios than the conventional single-wheel tests, where a traction load is applied along with wheel rotation. Moreover, this testbed can conduct experiments using regolith simulant with a cohesive property that has similar mechanical properties to those of lunar regolith, in addition to Toyoura sand, which is non-cohesive sand collected from the earth. This paper presents the results of a driving test on two types of loose soil: Toyoura sand and regolith simulant (FJS-1). The wheel used in the experiment is the preliminary version of the actual flight model of a 5 kg class lunar exploration microrover. The results reveal that the traction performance on both sands improves as the slip ratio increases. The performance did not depend on velocity but on vertical load. It should be noted that the cohesive simulant shows a higher difference in traction performance than Toyoura sand. These findings, measured in detail from the low-slip to the high-slip range, contribute to the actual driving operation of the rover missions.

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