A Concept Study of Small Planetary Rovers using Tensegrity Structures on Venus

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A. Post et al. (2020), JBIS, 73, pp.74-84

Refcode: 2020.73.74
Keywords: Planetary Rover, Venus, Tensegrity Structure

Venus is among the most enigmatic and interesting places to explore in the solar system. However, the surface of Venus is a very hostile, rocky environment with extreme temperatures, pressures, and chemical corrosivity. A planetary rover to explore the surface would be scientifically valuable, but must use unconventional methods in place of traditional robotic control and mobility. This study proposes that a tensegrity structure can provide adaptivity and control in place of a traditional mechanism and electronic controls for mobility on the surface of Venus and in other extreme environments. Tensegrity structures are light and compliant, being constructed from simple repeating rigid and flexible members and stabilized only by tension, drawing inspiration from biology and geometry, and are suitable for folding, deployment, and adaptability to terrain. They can also utilize properties of smart materials and geometry to achieve prescribed movements. Based on the needs of scientific exploration, a simple tensegrity rover can provide mobility and robustness to terrain and environmental conditions, and can be powered by environmental sources such as wind. A wide variety of tensegrity structures are possible, and some initial concepts suitable for volatile and complex environments are proposed here.

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