Adrian Agogino and Vytas SunSpiral have been awarded funding for their NASA Innovative Advanced Concept (NIAC) proposal, “Super Ball Bot - Structures for Planetary Landing and Exploration.” The proposed research will investigate the use of lightweight, deployable tensegrity robots for a novel mission concept that would combine the functions of a mobility system with Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) systems into a single structure. Because of their unique structural qualities, tensegrities can be packed into small volumes, and when deployed, they can absorb significant impact shocks. Thus, they can be used much like an airbag for landing on a planetary surface. They can also be used as a mobility platform to roll spacecraft on planetary surfaces. This project will mature the mission concept and evaluate control approaches using technologies from both the Robust Software Engineering and Intelligent Robotics Groups. Out of more than 600 white paper submissions, this proposal is one out of only eighteen that were funded for 2012.
BACKGROUND: Adrian's work on multi-agent systems and learning provide robust solutions to numerous complex design and control problems. These learning systems can be adaptive and can generate control solutions to complex structures too complicated to be designed by hand. This approach is well suited for tensegrity structures that are complex non-linear systems for which control theory is still being developed.
Vytas has been researching robotic manipulation and mobility for over a decade. In recent years he has been focused on the game-changing capabilities of tensegrity robots due to their unique structural properties. His quest to tap their potential has led him to investigate oscillatory control approaches from the field of neuroscience, such as Central Pattern Generators (CPGs), which show promise for efficient control of these robots.
NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: Office of the Chief Technologist, NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program (NIAC)
COLLABORATOR: David Atkinson, University of Idaho
Contact: Adrian Agogino, Vytas SunSpiral