Tensegrity Robots for Space Exploration: SUPERball and Related Robots

21 October 2014
Begin time: 
CITEC, room 1.015


Tensegrities are pin-jointed mechanical structures based on a subtle interplay between compression and tensile forces. By combining compression elements with a well structured tension network, one can build free-standing structures and robots which make highly efficient use of materials. The Spherical Underactuated Planetary Exploration Robot ball (SUPERball) is an ongoing tensegrity robotics project within NASA Ames Research Center’s Intelligent Robotics Group.

The current SUPERball ( http://goo.gl/mZ1Mv6 ) is the first full prototype of this robot platform. A key goal of this project is to develop a compliant tensegrity probe with an actively controlled tensile network, enabling compact stowage for launch followed by deployment for landing. Compliant tensegrity probes can safely absorb significant impact forces, enabling high-speed Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) scenarios where the probe acts like an airbag. However, unlike an airbag that must be discarded after a single use, the tensegrity robot also provides rolling mobility. This enables compact and lightweight planetary exploration missions with the capabilities of traditional wheeled rovers, but with a mass and cost similar to a stationary probe.

In this talk, I will present the latest mechanical design, control methods and simulations of SUPERball. A number of prototypes and related tensegrity robots will also be discussed.