ProtoInnovations, LLC proposes to research, design, develop, and validate a dynamically reconfigurable software and mobility architecture for autonomous planetary rovers, which will perform missions on a variety of different types of terrain on the Moon and will require soft soil tolerant and all-terrain mobility architectures and precision control. The dynamically reconfigurable software architecture will incorporate perception, planning interfaces, and multi-layer controls for robust, efficient, locomotion to meet the current and future needs of lunar rovers. Conventional mission-tested rover designs use static configurations of wheeled locomotion, which are optimized for maneuverability and terrainability but leave the rover susceptible to entrapment, or terrainability and trafficability, which makes the rover bulky or hard to operate for precise science. Our proposed design will incorporate reconfigurable software locomotion controls and mobility architectures. These controls and architectures will extend the conventional design space of planetary rovers and allow researchers to conduct autonomous science and exploration missions in areas that rovers haven’t yet been able to explore safely. This project will result in a series of important technologies including: rover mobility architectures with efficient, robust mobility on lunar terrain; a dynamically reconfigurable software architecture that enables multiple modes of locomotion; multiple sets of locomotion controls; sensing and perception systems to inform modes of locomotion; and rover design analyses for reconfigurable rover mobility architectures.
The proposed innovations will aid rover-based NASA missions for space science and exploration on the lunar surface during the Artemis (Moon to Mars) Campaign. Artemis requires sustainable surface operations that require robots, rovers, and people to all work together. These mobility designs that operate well in more than one mode of locomotion will benefit ISRU, scientific exploration, and other space science endeavors
ProtoInnovations targets infusion of the proposed technologies to agricultural, earth moving, and construction applications that typically involve work vehicles that must possess high mobility and adaptability to ever-changing terrain conditions and forceful interactions. Such vehicles would benefit from software and controls for efficient, safe, and situation-responsive mobility.