Feeds

NASA births cliff-hanging yo-yo bot

Gravity's a bitch

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

NASA boffins said today they've built and tested a small and relatively simple robot that can rappel down cliffs, traverse steep terrain, and tarry about in inhospitable craters other rovers would fear to tread.

The robo prototype, called Axel, was developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and students at the California Institute of Technology. The engineers hope Axel's design can be used to aid future exploration of Mars — or even assist in Earthly search-and-rescue missions.

Image courtesy NASA/JPL

Axel rover — named for its single axel design and not the Guns N' Roses front man — was made with the goal of minimal complexity in mind. The rover is powered by only three actuators: two for its wheels and one for the multi-purpose trailing link.

The link works as a lever arm against wheel thrust, can adjust the pitch for Axel's twin cameras, or simply serve a backup actuator should one of the wheel actuators fail.

Axel can also work like a yo-yo, reeling out a tether that could be attached to a larger lander and pulling it back in to explore the universe's many patches of horizontally-challenged ground.

Axel concept tethered to a rover. NASA/JPL

"Axel extends our ability to explore terrains that we haven't been able to explore in the past, such as deep craters with vertically-sloped promontories," said Axel principal investigator, Issa Nesnas of JPL. "Also, because Axel is relatively low-mass, a mission may carry a number of Axel rovers. That would give us the opportunity to be more aggressive with the terrain we would explore, while keeping the overall risk manageable."

The rover can also sport several types of wheels designed to suit the territory being explored, from large fold-able metal wheels to inflatable wheels. (Sadly, no wheels with rims that keep spinning every time you stop.)

Fitted into Axel's compact cylindrical body are computational and communication modules and an inertial sensor for navigation without a human steering and obstacle avoidance.

JPL began its work on Axel in 1999, in a partnership with Purdue University Indiana and Arkansas University.

You can watch a nifty video of Axel in action here. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?