Martian exploration will evolve at the dawn of 2020 towards robots at the restricted cost, reduced dimensions and the mobility adapted to the rough terrains which are rich in geological information. Canada being an international leader in space robotics, a participation in these missions seems a natural evolution of its program. With an aim of developing a bank of solutions specific to planetary robotics, the Department of Space Technologies of the Canadian Space Agency entrusted us the mandate to design and protoype a small walking robot platform. 

    Fig. 1: Some regions of Mars show a highly rugged geology.

    Our principal objectives of design were to create a simple and reliable platform able to move on a rough terrain without finding itself in a position that would make it unusable, while minimizing dimensions, the mass, the number of actuators and the power consumption. The prototype is the result of analytical and numerical studies of kinematics and dynamics carried out on several geometrical models.

    With only two motors actuating its six legs, the robot has a simplicity of control which goes hand in hand with the specifications required by the space context of the project. It has mechanical reflexes enabling him to adapt in an intelligent and automatic way to its environment and has a mechanical effectiveness seldom equalized for a walking robot.

    Fig. 2: ProEngineer model.

    The prototype was tested at the Canadian Space Agency on a terrain simulating Martian topography. The experiment performed on the analog site showed the viability of the concept selected: its reversibility, its handiness and its stability enabled it to cross the fields of rocks length into broad and with a remarkable speed of execution. The improvement of the system of transmission, the addition of the mechanism of compliance and the control of the tripod gait will certainly make it a potential candidate for the future robotized planetary missions.

    Fig. 3: Experiment at the Canadian Space Agency.

    Selected photos

    Several photos of the walking robot PROMPT are provided below. They can be enlarged by clicking directly on the photo.

    Video clips

    The following video clips illustrate the prototype of the walking robot PROMPT.