Space Tech of the Week: AXEL Rover

What is it?: "The Axel rover system is a family of platforms aimed at providing versatile mobility for scientific access and human-oriented exploration of planetary surfaces in the solar system."
"NASA refers to a robot like the Axel rover as a 'tethered marsupial rover' because it would spend most of its time attached to a larger vehicle until it is needed. "

"A primary goal of the Axel system design is minimal complexity. Therefore, the basic Axel rover uses a symmetrical design, with only three actuators to control its wheels and a trailing link. The link serves several purposes: it provides a reaction lever arm against wheel thrust, it adjusts the rover's pitch for pointing its stereo cameras, and it provides redundancy if one of the wheel actuators fails. Using only three actuators, this rover is capable of following arbitrary paths, turning-in-place, and operating upside-down or right-side-up."

"The Axel rover prototype is built like a yo-yo; its tether is wrapped around its central axle. The other end of the tether would be attached to a larger, conventional rover robot, like the Spirit and Opportunity rovers on Mars. "
"When Spirit, for example, encounters a crater, it cannot descend and explore. However, the Axel can; it lets gravity pull down, whirling the rover around. It uses its arm to gather samples; its stereoscopic cameras gather visual details. When it has finished its duties, it can wind itself back up to the top, to be stored again for later use."

JPL Robotics: AXEL
Yahoo! News

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