Spacecraft/Rover Hybrids for the Exploration of Small Solar System Bodies
The goal of this project is to develop a mission architecture that allows the systematic and affordable in-situ exploration of small Solar System bodies, such as asteroids, comets, and Martian moons. Our architecture relies on the novel concept of spacecraft/rover hybrids, which are surface mobility platforms capable of achieving large surface coverage (by attitude-controlled hops, akin to spacecraft flight), fine mobility (by tumbling), and coarse instrument pointing (by changing orientation relative to the ground) in the low-gravity environments (micro-g to milli-g) of small bodies. The actuation of the hybrids relies on spinning three internal flywheels, which allows all subsystems to be packaged in one sealed enclosure and enables the platforms to be minimalistic, thereby reducing the cost of the mission architecture. The hybrids would be deployed from a mother spacecraft, which would then act as a communication relay to Earth and would aid the in-situ assets with tasks such as localization and navigation.
Collectively, this project aims to demonstrate that exploration via controlled mobility in low-gravity environments is technically possible, economically feasible, and would enable a focused, yet compelling set of science objectives aligned with NASA's interests in science and human exploration. The project is primarily funded by the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program.
This webpage contains digital copies of related publications, slides from the NASA NIAC Symposium 2012, movies of our experiments, information about our team, and more.
Spacecraft/rover hybrids in a nutshell
In the press
This project brings together a strong team of experts in astronautics, human-space flight, science, and engineering from Stanford, JPL and MIT, and engages graduate students at both Stanford and MIT.
Additional collaborators at Stanford: Ross Allen, Daniel Washington, Lawrence Leung, Adam Koenig, Nicholas Cheung, Ben Kirshner, John McMordie
Additional collaborators at JPL: Mark Amash, Gareth Meirion-Griffith, Elizabeth Carey, Jacklyn Green, Loris Roveda, Christine Fuller, Chris McQuin, Tam Nguyen (JPL/MIT)