Spherical Rocket Propelled Robots for Extreme Environment Exploration

Wheeled ground robots are limited from exploring extreme environments such as caves, lava tubes and skylights. Small robots that utilize unconventional mobility through hopping, flying and rolling can overcome many roughness limitations and thus extend exploration sites of interest on Moon and Mars. Our work focuses on the development of a network of spherical robots that are that powered using rockets. The robots are 3-5 kg each and many can be deployed from a large lander or rover. Each robot is equipped with smartphone sized computer and navigational instruments including stereo cameras, laser rangefinders and a science payload. Our studies focus on developing the mobility and power systems for these robots, which remain the main barrier to practical realization of this technology. Our work on rockets focus on miniaturization of thrusters and user safe, clean, non-cryogenic fuels with long shelf life. In addition we are exploring the feasibility of using PEM fuel cells with hydrogen generated from high-density lithium hydride hydrogen generators.