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Space Technology Research Grants

Modular Cryogenic Hydraulics for Legged Mobility

Active Technology Project

Project Introduction

Modular Cryogenic Hydraulics for Legged Mobility
The desire to explore the surfaces of icy moons, such as Europa, will require the development of a new generation of planetary mobility technologies. Wheeled and tracked vehicles are not suitable for the icy and steep slopes that may be encountered, while hopping approaches are inherently risky when adequate terrain assessment is not possible. Legged vehicles provide a promising avenue for traversing complex terrains, however icy surfaces will require anchoring mechanisms to maintain a secure hold. This is especially true for traversing steep slopes or cliff faces that may be encountered. The proposed effort is to develop a novel claw end effector to capitalize on the unique characteristics of an icy moon with effectively no atmosphere. With an electrical heating element embedded into a claw tip, the claw would safely sublimate a hole into the ice, resulting in a relatively undamaged hold point to provide traction, even up a sheer cliff face. The objectives of the proposed effort are to characterize the power, mass and performance of such an end effector, as applied to water ice at cryogenic temperatures under vacuum, and to demonstrate the implementation of these end effectors by integrating them into a simple legged mobile platform to conduct a variety of climbing maneuvers using a dry ice terrain analog at atmospheric pressure. More »

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Technology Maturity (TRL)

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