Space Robotics Micro-Satellite Activities

Dr. Kazuya Yoshida, Tohoku University, Japan


The speaker has been conducting space robotics research for almost 20 years. His research interests range from robots for space and terrestrial exploration to spacecrafts for science missions. In this talk, recent research activities on exploration robotics and university-based micro-satellites are addressed.

The talk will consist of three parts. In the first part, a recent topic of Japanese space probe, "Hayabusa" is quickly described. Hayahusa is an interplanetary robotic probe to visit an asteroid and obtain soil samples, then return to the earth. Launched in May 2003, Hayabusa successfully visited asteroid "Itoawa" in 2005, and it finally returned to the Earth in June 2010. The speaker contributed to the design and analysis of sample acquisition mechanism and touch-and-go type of sampling motion dynamics. The story of Hayabusa is described from the aspect of the sample acquisition and analysis.

In the second part, Lunar and Planetary Robotics is introduced from the view point of sensing, mapping, navigation and control of wheeled mobile robots (rovers). The surface of the Moon, particularly, is covered with fine granular or powdery soil (regolith), and therefore slippage of wheels cannot be neglected when a rover travels on loose soil. The slippages degrade the locomotion efficiency and, in the worst case, cause a complete loss of mobility. Also the steering motion of the rovers on loose soil is dissimilar to on-road vehicles because of different wheel slip/skid behaviors. The speaker's approach is introduced for analysis of the traction mechanics that provides better navigation control performance.

In the final part of the talk, activities of micro-sat development are introduced. Tohoku University focuses 50-kg class of micro-sats for scientific objectives. The first one, named Sprite-Sat or RISING, is now in orbit. The second one, RISING-2 is now under the development of the flight model. We also have the third one in the phase of initial systems design. For the first one, a fruitful collaboration was conducted between Science and Engineering departments. The second one is now going with inter-university collaboration and, for the third one, we invite multiple scientific instruments from research groups in different countries to be integrated on our 50-kg class of satellite-bus system.