Current work is focusing on multi-limbed vehicles in low gravity environments. A large 6-degrees-of-freedom (DOF) testbed for evaluating microgravity and low-gravity proximity and contact operations (e.g. in the vicinity of a near-Earth asteroid) has been created. This 6 DOF motion is accomplished using an inverted Stewart platform, where the vehicle under test is suspended by six computer-controlled cable winches so that it can be maneuvered in all DOFs. Real sensor feedback in terms of imagery, ranging, and contact sensing using accurate force sensors allows simulation of approach, landing, anchoring, release and departure statics and dynamics for near-Earth asteroid missions as well as one-sixth or three-eighths gravity simulations on extreme terrain without putting the hardware at risk.
Brian Wilcox - Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Exploration Systems Research and Technology