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Modeling, Analysis, and Control of an Actively Reconfigurable Planetary Rover for Traversing Slopes Covered with Loose Soil



Future planetary rovers are expected to probe across steep sandy slopes such as crater rims where wheel slippage can be a critical problem. One possible solution is to equip locomotion mechanisms with redundant actuators so that the rovers are able to actively reconfigure themselves to adapt to the target terrain. This study modeled a reconfigurable rover to analyze the effects of posture change on rover slippage over sandy slopes. The study also investigated control strategies for a reconfigurable rover to reduce slippage. The proposed mechanical model consists of two models: a complete rover model representing the relationship between the attitude of the rover and the forces acting on each wheel, and a wheel-soil contact force model expressed as a function of slip parameters. By combining these two models, the proposed joint model relates the configuration of the rover to its slippage. The reliability of the proposed model is discussed based on a comparison of slope-traversing experiments and numerical simulations. The results of the simulations show trends similar to those of the experiments and thus the validity of the proposed model. Following the results, a configuration control strategy for a reconfigurable rover was introduced accompanied by orientation control. These controls were implemented on a four-wheeled rover, and their effectiveness was tested on a natural sand dune. The results of the field experiments show the usefulness of the proposed control strategies.