Space Systems Senior Design: Mars Rover for Robotic Drilling [2007-08]
The senior design course is intended to teach students about the design process. The initial criterion given to us was to develop a way to drill in search of water on Mars. Our team of 4 decided to design a rover that carried a 36 volt hammer drill and a mock-up on board chemistry lab. We were allowed to identify shortcuts where the cost would be unrealistic for a senior design course build.
The rover would need to be able to travel a substantial distance and navigate over or around obstacles. A platform elevated above the average rock size on Mars was supported by a simple suspension system and large wheels. The two front wheels had independent high torque electric motors for propulsion, while the back wheels had servo motors to control the steering.
The drill was suspended by a cable and winch system and could lowered to the ground below the platform. The hammerdrill style was essential as it can drill under its own weight. After a satisfactory hole was drilled, a mock-up X-ray spectrometer could be lowered by its own cable and winch system to investigate the subsurface soil.
All of the driving, drilling and sensing actions could be controlled remotely via FM radio controls and multiple on board cameras transmitting of 2.4GHz Zigbee wireless.