Spacecraft/Rover Hybrids for the Exploration of Small Solar System Bodies
Our objective is to develop a novel mission architecture for the systematic and affordable in-situ exploration of small Solar system bodies, which exploits a synergistic combination of remote and in-situ mobile assets. Specifically, a mother spacecraft would deploy over the surface of a small body one, or several, spacecraft/rover hybrids, which are small, multi-faceted enclosed robots with internal actuation and external spikes. They are capable of 1) long excursions (by hopping), 2) short traverses to specific locations (through a sequence of controlled tumbles), and 3) high-altitude, attitude-controlled ballistic flight (akin to spacecraft flight). Their control relies on synergistic operations with the mother spacecraft (where most of hybrids’ perception and localization functionalities are hosted), which makes the platforms minimalistic and in turn the entire mission architecture affordable. The project is funded by the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program.
This webpage contains digital copies of related publications, slides from the NASA NIAC Symposium 2012, movies of our experiments, information about our team, and more.
Spacecraft/rover hybrids in a nutshell
The mission architecture: one mother spacecraft would deploy on the surface of a small body one (or more) spacecraft/rover hybrids (from cm- to m-scale). Once deployed, the hybrids would perform attitude-controlled hops for long-range traverses (in the order of 10m per hop, steps A to B to C in the figure) and would tumble to reach specific locations (steps C to D in the figure). Each hybrid is sealed in one enclosure and internally actuated through three mutually orthogonal flywheels. Synergistic mission operations would ensure precise planning and control of the hybrids at a low development cost.
In the press
This project brings together a strong team of experts in astronautics, human-space flight, science, and engineering from Stanford, JPL and MIT, and engages graduate students at both Stanford and MIT.