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Abstract

This paper presents analytical models to investigate the steering maneuvers of planetary exploration rovers on loose soil. The models are based on wheel-soil interaction mechanics, or terramechanics, with which the traction and disturbance forces of a wheel are evaluated for various slip conditions. These traction forces are decomposed into the longitudinal and lateral directions of the wheel. The latter component, termed the side force has a major influence in characterizing the steering maneuvers of the rover. In this paper, the wheel-soil mechanics models are developed with particular attention to the side force and the validity of the model is confirmed by using a single-wheel test bed. The motion profile of the entire rover is numerically evaluated by incorporating the wheel-soil models into an articulated multibody model that describes the motion dynamics of the vehicle's body and chassis. Steering maneuvers are investigated under different steering angles by using a four-wheel rover test bed on simulated lunar soil regolith simulant. The experimental results are compared with the simulation results using the corresponding model parameters. The proposed wheel-and-vehicle model demonstrates better accuracy in predicting steering maneuvers as compared to the conventional kinematics-based model. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.