Reinventing the wheel

Dec 01, 2010
8-inch iRings wheels demonstrating compliance using a rover testbed. / Photo: Brad Jones/Neptec Design Group

Creating a wheel for some of the worst potholes known to humankind is just one of the extraterrestrial challenges a team of McGill students and professors face in developing and testing a wheel prototype for the new Lunar Exploration Light Rover (LELR).

The new Canadian rover will be used during to carry payloads, cargo and crew, as well as enable drilling and excavation, manipulator and tool integration, and vision and state-of-the-art communications systems.

Professor Peter Radziszewski is leading the team as part of an $11.5-million contract awarded by the Canadian Space Agency to Neptec Design Group.

“My students and I are thrilled to be on the Neptec Rover Team (NRT) as it will allow us to advance our earlier prototypes of lunar-friendly wheels and make a significant and innovative contribution to Canada’s space program,” said Radziszewski.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
One of the issues with any wheel for an off-road application such as lunar mobility is shock absorption or shock damping. Typically, shocks in a vehicle are absorbed by the suspension system. However, if it is possible to dissipate some of the shock energy in the wheels themselves then it becomes possible to reduce the requirements for the suspension system. In this video, the test rover equipped with the first iRings prototype wheels is dropped to get an idea as to the shock damping characteristics. In this case, after falling about a couple of feet, the impact energy of the rover with the ground seems to be fully dissipated with the use of the iRings wheels.

Radziszewski and his team began working on developing wheel prototypes in 2009, one of which – dubbed iRing – is made of an external chainmail “fabric” filled with granular particulate matter; sort of like a metal bean-bag chair shaped like a wheel. This distinctive design provides both flexibility and sturdiness when travelling over extremely bumpy lunar terrain.

Radziszewski is quick to recognize the efforts of fellow colleagues and many McGill students – nearly 60 so far from both the undergraduate and graduate programs – who have been and will be involved on the portion of this project and other aspects of the rover’s traction system development. “This effort is really a nexus of teaching and research. We have built a bank of expertise in creating intellectual property that supports a Canadian space-mobility effort,” he said.

The final prototype of the lunar is expected to roll out in the spring of 2012.

Explore further: Dawn spacecraft captures best-ever view of dwarf planet

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA plans 'moonbuggy' design competition

Dec 16, 2006

NASA officials in Alabama are calling on the next generation of space explorers to design and race their lunar rovers in NASA's 14th "Great Moonbuggy Race."

Researchers Test Steep-Terrain Rover

Feb 05, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Engineers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and students at the California Institute of Technology have designed and tested a versatile, low-mass robot that can rappel off cliffs, travel ...

Recommended for you

Gully patterns document Martian climate cycles

10 minutes ago

Geologists from Brown University have found new evidence that glacier-like ice deposits advanced and retreated multiple times in the midlatitude regions of Mars in the relatively recent past.

Europe to resume satnav launches in March: Arianespace

20 minutes ago

Europe in March will resume satellite launches for its troubled Galileo navigation system, hoping to boost by at least six the number of orbiters this year, Arianespace and the European Commission said Wednesday.

The two faces of Mars

3 hours ago

A moon-sized celestial object that crashed into the south pole: ETH researchers use a simulation to demonstrate why Mars consists of two notably different hemispheres.

The electric eye of Cyclone Bansi

3 hours ago

Though this image may look like they come from a science fiction movie, it is in fact a photograph of tropical cyclone Bansi as seen at night by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). The image ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

mikiwud
1 / 5 (9) Dec 02, 2010
Creating a wheel for some of the worst potholes known to humankind

They could test it for free on roads in the UK!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.