The Canadian Space Agency (CSA), which invented and made the International Space Station's 30-year robotic Canadarm project, is working on lunar and Mars robot rovers. It recently unveiled five rover prototypes and put them through their paces on the agency's testing terrain, which simulates the surfaces of Mars and the moon.
The new lineup includes four lunar rovers -- the Micro-Rover Platform with Tooling Arm, the Kapvik Micro-Rover, the Artemis, and the Lunar Exploration Light Rover -- and the Mars Exploration Science Rover. They are in addition to the Juno and Rex rovers, which have been operating since 2010.
The CSA also developed some spinoff technologies resulting from its rover development work. They include the SL-Commander automated electric all-terrain vehicle, a fuel cell, and the Q6 mini-computer.
Click on the image below to check them out.
The CSA's Rex rover has a robotic arm that simulates collecting Martian rock and soil samples. It travels at 4cm/sec (1.57inch/sec). On its six aluminum or rubber wheels, the rover can navigate over obstacles up to 15cm (5.9 inches) high and climb slopes of up to 10 degrees. Rex weighs 140kg (308.64 pounds) and measures 152 x 142 x 76cm (59.84 x 55.9 x 29.92 inches). It can carry up to 30kg (66.13 pounds) of science payloads. In 2010, the CSA jointly field tested the rover with NASA at the Flagstaff Meteor Crater in Arizona. (Source: Canadian Space Agency)
Ann, this is interesting, but does the CSA plan to deploy these. I recently saw a show on PBS which went into some detaill about the Curiosity rover. This is a large vehicle. One thing that was interesting was the Mars Exploration Science Rover. Your caption states that the rover is designed to collect samples to bring back to earth. As far as I know, this is a very expensive proposition. The Curiosity rover has the lab built in so that it can analyze the samples in place.
No offense to anyone but half the stuff I see in here are not going to survive space a minute in. especially that "ruggedized computer" in image ten. I can see holes the size of quarters on it that are not sealed in any way. Take it from some one that has worked on materials that actually go to space pin size cracks that require a 10X magnifying glass to see are a problem if your insulation material is not sufficient. One more thing, those connectors just don't look space worthy. Really Ethernet? Custom sealed connectors rated for space might do the trick. Generally speaking off the shelf connectors that are rated for that environment will be cheaper than to design your own too so good rule of thumb don't try this at home.
Ervin. Have to agree with you on this one. I think the mechanical drive concepts are OK and fairly well thought out but lift off and re-entry are definitely tough on components and other equipment. I worked in the aerospace industry (Titan II Missile) some years ago and "survival" was the key word. Generally, mission critical components and systems had redundancy. It was amazing to me how many launches were successful due to the redundant systems after the primary systems failed. I definitely enjoyed Ann's post and it's very interesting to see what's in the works relative to probes that might be used.
It's worth recalling that the CSA's budget is around $300 million a year, about 1/60th of NASA's budget of about $18 billion. And it seems to me that this project was done with at least one eye on terrestrial applications -- specifically, to help BRP (and other Canadian companies, presumably) to develop better consumer products, with the SL Commander being Exhibit A.
(By the way, that's why the SL Commander has a windshield; as the caption to the slide points out, it's based on work that BRP did for the Lunar Light Exploration Rover, but it's intended for use on Earth).
Since the CSA is part of Industry Canada, it makes sense for them to be promoting Canadian businesses. That's what Industry Canada is supposed to do, after all. Imagine if NASA were part of the Department of Commerce.
While the CSA may be small, Canada has a larger space presence through a number of its private companies, including McDonald Dettwiler, mentioned in the article, which recently acquired SpaceSystems/Loral. This model (a significant private sector presence, coupled with a smaller public sector, focused mainly on helping the private sector) seems to be one that some people would like to see the U.S. space program emulate.
I am used to a different environment. My prototypes go through assurance testing and have to perform same as the product that goes into certification. there is a large list of things that can go wrong during lift-off as well as space operation.
@ervin0072002: I think this is a difference of terminology. When they say "prototype," think "proof of concept." Actually, even that might be too strong of a term. The CSA doesn't have the means to put one of these on the Moon or Mars, even if they wanted to. These are basically just show and tell pieces that will hopefully benefit Canadian companies.
These CSA rovers are a long way past "proof of concept." The concept(s) has(have) already been proven by Curiosity. These are correctly named prototypes, but they're not production prototypes, the type ervin007 apparently is thinking of; they're R&D/engineering prototypes, to test different designs and paths to achieving the same goals. CSA joint tests them with NASA, just like they did the Canadarms, and NASA has the means to put these on the moon, on Mars or in space.
NadineJ, I agree. Electronic Controls prototypes I've worked on were never designed for production use but for technology Proof of Concept. The cases were made of SLA material and looked like homebrew boxes but the electronics worked quite well under test. These rover designs definitely fit the category of "What If" just by their appearance.
ervin0072002, I noticed the holes and cabling as well. Maybe the intent behind these prototypes is to demonstrate Driveability Proof of Concept regarding rough terrain. Some of the designs look plain but in space functionality is what really matters.
I try to govern my thoughts & comments, to allow unconventional concepts to sink-in ,,,, you know, "There's no such thing as a Stupid Comment" ,,,, and really consider the intent before passing judgment. But even after pondering, these slides, I don't endorse them as viable. Slide 1 is prone to getting stuck in a small ditch. Slide2 is a dune buggy. Slide 3 carries 500 pounds but has no arms to pick anything up? The concepts get a little more stable in the subsequent slides, but overall, they don't seem to be well conceived.
I looked critically at the critical note about figure number ten. It states the rugged processor box wouldn't last a minute in space, from "one who knows" But the legend states the box is space rated by NASA, ESA and Nippon SA. Who is kidding whom?
Ann--Excellent post. Do you know if there is available information that would tell us what "on-board" diagnostic packages exist to analyze soil, air for methane, test for water, etc etc? Is there a "standard" schedule of experiments given for probes of this type; i.e. lunar, Mars, etc? I have taken a look at the NASA web site and don't see any specifics. (Maybe missed them.) This would be very interesting to know. Again, excellent post.
Nice to see that the CSA has other projects besides the arm that they are known for. This is quite a variety of concepts. I'm assuming they are platforms to test different instruments/approaches/missions rather than a "family" of rovers geared toward a specific mission.
The problem with the rovers to date is the "all eggs in one basket".
I read about a concept in 1988 where you take a bunch of small "rovers" - think of the RC cars that can bounce all over the terrain or one of the small robots by Big Dog - and a "mother ship". Assume 100 of the small rovers per Mother. Assume 10..50 Mothers. The Mother would land with the small rovers, and act as a home base for re-transmitting signals, swarm coordination, and refueling (electrical power).
The rovers would be redundant - ie 10 would have lasers, 10 with soil analysis, 10 with a mass spec, etc. Mission control would give a target, the Mother would direct the right mix to the spot. Need more laser power? use more laser rovers.
The redundancy gives you a much higher success rate - you can easily lose 10% without degradation of the general mission.
So - I respectfully ask - what is the problem with this? Why not do it, esp on Mars? The Bouncy Ball rover delivery would work. We Have The Technology.
BTW - the "Flagstaff Meteor Crater" is closer to Winslow (20 miles) than Flagstaff (36 miles). Drove past it last week. Also stood on a particular corner in Winslow, AZ, such a fine sight to see.
Actually, this is a pretty good idea, Mr_bandit. Not sure it would be as cost effective as the current rover. But maybe it would, With smaller rovers, there would be less of a chance of malfunction since it would be spread across multiple units.
about the need to look in the caves of Mars (sounds like a Dr Who episode..) for evidence of life.
Dr Boston explores extreme environments for extremophiles - she goes into caves with an environment of pH 1 (the suits start failing immediately; working time is about 45 minutes). There is a multitude of life in these environments.
Point is: find likely caves on Mars and send in 1000 small rovers. Some would drop repeaters on the way in. Some would be power sources. Some would deploy cables for dropping down. Don't worry about getting them back.
I like the idea of small robots and swarms. Its a very nice idea. The issue would be weight. The smaller they get the more systems will be repeated from one unit to another. Also each unit will have its own protective shell, battery, charging system, motor system, guidance system, central processor. and while all these things have become relatively cheap and small it will still be difficult since they will add up from one unit to anothre. also the terrain is undefined, environment is undefined, etc.
The swarm of small RC autonomous robots have advantages of:
1) 50% or more of each bot is common, making the engineering and manufacturing easier
1a) use a low-power MPU (rad-hard, of course). Main power would be motors
1b) common to the chassis: motor, battery, radio/gps, charging, wheels, etc.
1c) there would be a common method of attaching the instrument package mechanically and electrically
2) terrain: base them on the RC cars that don't care about terrain - they can 4-wheel all they want. Obviously, the instrument packages would need to be robust, but we are dealing with fairly light-weight here in a 0.3G environment
Also see the Flee and the small bots at Boston Dynamics.
Some bots would be "refueling", ie go up to another bot and charge it up. They may be heavier than an instrument, so they can service several
mr_bandit, that sounds like an interesting alternative approach. I wonder if a) NASA and/or CSA have already considered and rejected this "client-server"-like model of lunar and Mars rovers, or b) that's something they haven't thought of. I wouldn't be surprised if the answer is a) and they rejected it based on the much higher cost of shipping all that stuff. (BTW, did you see "a girl my lord in a flat bed Ford"?)
Considering the Bouncy Ball delivery system did roughly a ton, and the "drop and pray" did two tons, they can deliver quite a load.
Assume each mini-rover is 20 lb. 100 would be 2000 or one ton. put the mother ship at another ton. That would work.
Also, by having a common body/chassis, the manufacturing is simpler.
I suspect the NIH factor at all levels - NASA is really prone to this. They tend to think in Big Things.
There would need to be a parallel project to put GPS satellites in orbit for the Mother and bots to track each other, plus communications to bounce a signal over the horizon (ie can use very low-power transceivers).
I was in Winslow for the nigh, so it was early the next morning, so traffic was very light. Peaceful. Easy. Feeling good because I was on the way home and my truck was running good (after the fuel pump failed in the middle of the Mojave).
Since I went thru the area the night before, it was dark and I missed stopping at Meteor City - something that only people driving past will ever see. They advertise as having the longest RT 66 map. Cool building...
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