eSpace Projects

  • Preliminary design and feasibility analysis of the Lunar Reconnaissance Drone Service Station

    Feasibility analysis & preliminary design of a Lunar Reconnaissance Drone Service Station

  • Simulation of the Lunar Reconnaissance Drone flight profile in Gazebo

    Simulation of the Lunar Reconnaissance Drone flight profile in Gazebo

  • Rover locomotion subsystem design for fast autonomous mobility

    Rover locomotion subsystem design for fast extraterrestrial mobility

  • Proof of concept for a lunar camera payload

    Proof of concept for a lunar camera payload

Preliminary design and feasibility analysis of the Lunar Reconnaissance Drone Service Station

Feasibility analysis & preliminary design of a Lunar Reconnaissance Drone Service Station

Supervisor: eSpace (David Rodríguez/Prof. Jean-Paul Kneib)
Type of Project: Semester project
Duration: 14 weeks (Official start/end date: Sep/20-Dec/24/2022)
Submission of final report: Jan/06/2023
Final Presentation: TBD, tentative Jan/13/2023
Recommended: This project is suitable for a student interested in space systems engineering, lunar exploration technologies, mechanical design, control, and early prototyping with a background in Aerospace, Mechanical, Electrical, Electronics Engineering and/or Physics.

CONTEXT

Upcoming exploration missions to the lunar surface demand robotic assets with the capability to explore longer distances (>100 km) under highly constrained time windows (e.g., focused missions to the polar regions, < 8 days of surface operations, shorter daylight cycles) as well as the capacity to operate within and across extreme environments (permanently shadowed regions (PSRs), rugged terrains) of which little to no data is readily available. An effective, faster, and robust surface mobility requires the use of high-resolution mapping and imagery. Airborne robotic systems are currently being tested and deployed on Mars to assist with the mobility and mission planning of rovers on the surface.
This project studies the potential deployment of a lightweight, compact reconnaissance drone for scouting and exploration of the lunar surface. This drone shall assist robotic assets (e.g., large scale lunar rover, >500 kg) operating on the surface into inaccessible environments – or those of which scattered data is available – and across extreme, uncharted terrains. The lunar reconnaissance drone shall be fast to deploy and provide a simple, low-cost solution to acquire high-resolution images of the surface and to map targeted regions of interest. Reusability and modularity are musts for adaptation of these drones to various mission scenarios.

PROJECT SCOPE

The project is currently undergoing a system feasibility analysis and preliminary concept design as part of its Phase A/B. The lunar reconnaissance payload envelope comprises two main systems: a lunar drone and its associated service station. The preliminary concept of operations (CONOPS) for the system defined thus far assumes the drone takes off and lands from its service station, i.e., a base located on top of the rover it services, which apart from acting as a take-off and landing (TOL) pad provides shelter to the drone when in standby, refuels its tanks and recharges its batteries, and allows for major data transfers to take place on the rover itself; all with the objective of keeping the drone as lightweight and compact as possible.
As part of this project you will conduct a system level feasibility analysis and preliminary design of this service station. You will be tasked with drafting a conceptual design for the service station, performing the required analyses and system/subsystem trade-offs, defining a preliminary system architecture, verifying its feasibility, and deriving product and functional trees. Additionally, you may also define modes of operation and analyze associated failure modes.

OUTCOME

The outcome of this project shall be in the form of a technical feasibility analysis of the system based on predefined mission constraints including a preliminary design of a viable solution for the drone service station and its associated concept of operations.

TASKS

As part of this project, you will be tasked with expanding the current design of the lunar drone payload envelope. The following tasks need to be performed:

# 1: Understand the technical requirements and constraints, as well as the scientific drivers, of the current project, its concept of operations (CONOPS), and predefined drone use case.
#2: From the current CONOPS, derive technical and operational requirements and constraints applicable to the service station.
#3: Define a preliminary system architecture (i.e., 1) functional analysis, 2) system modes of operation, and 3) subsystems sizing) and perform necessary analyses for system/subsystem trade-offs.
#4: Improvement and validation of current concept of operations, failure modes, and subsequent system requirements.

CONTACT

Dr. David Rodríguez
Lunar Research & Technology Development Initiative
eSpace – EPFL Space Center
david.rodriguez@epfl.ch
Simulation of the Lunar Reconnaissance Drone flight profile in Gazebo

Simulation of the Lunar Reconnaissance Drone flight profile in Gazebo

Supervisor: eSpace (David Rodríguez/Prof. Jean-Paul Kneib)
Type of Project: Semester project
Duration: 14 weeks (Official start-end date: Sep/20-Dec/24/2022)
Submission of final report: Jan/06/2023
Final Presentation: TBD, tentative Jan/13/2023
Recommended: This project is suitable for a student interested in space engineering, lunar exploration technologies, and conceptual design with a background in Robotics, Aerospace, Mechanical, Electrical Engineering and/or Physics.

CONTEXT

Upcoming exploration missions to the lunar surface demand robotic assets with the capability to explore longer distances (>100 km) under highly constrained time windows (e.g., focused missions to the polar regions, < 8 days of surface operations, shorter daylight cycles) as well as the capacity to operate within and across extreme environments (permanently shadowed regions (PSRs), rugged terrains) of which little to no data is readily available. An effective, faster, and robust surface mobility requires the use of high-resolution mapping and imagery. Airborne robotic systems are currently being tested and deployed on Mars to assist with the mobility and mission planning of rovers on the surface.

This project studies the potential deployment of a lightweight, compact reconnaissance drone for scouting and exploration of the lunar surface. This drone shall assist robotic assets (e.g., large scale lunar rover, >500 kg) operating on the surface into inaccessible environments – or those of which scattered data is available – and across extreme, uncharted terrains. The lunar reconnaissance drone shall be fast to deploy and provide a simple, low-cost solution to acquire high-resolution images of the surface and to map targeted regions of interest. Reusability and modularity are musts for adaptation of these drones to various mission scenarios.

PROJECT SCOPE

The project is currently undergoing a system feasibility analysis and preliminary concept design as part of its Phase A/B. The lunar reconnaissance payload envelope comprises two main systems: a lunar drone and its associated service station. The preliminary concept of operations (CONOPS) for the system defined thus far assumes the drone takes off and lands from its service station, i.e., a base located on top of the rover it services, which apart from acting as a take-off and landing (TOL) pad provides shelter to the drone when in standby, refuels its tanks and recharges its batteries, and allows for major data transfers to take place on the rover itself; all with the objective of keeping the drone as lightweight and compact as possible.
As part of this project, you will build a simulator based on the open-source robotics simulator, Gazebo. This simulator shall be used to analyze the different flight trajectories the drone must follow as part of its concept of operations (CONOPS), to perform system level tradeoffs and failure modes analysis, and to assist in the development of control strategies. Prior experience with Gazebo, or any other robotics simulator, would be an advantage but it is not required. Familiarity with ROS is also a plus, but not required. Basic knowledge of programming is however required.

OUTCOME

The outcome of this project shall be in the form of a 3D simulator capable of analyzing different flight trajectories for the drone as well as variations in its configuration. This simulator shall become the foundation required to rapidly test and optimize control strategies during upcoming projects. Simplified control approaches shall be used for this project. The optimization of control strategies is, however, out of the scope of this project.

TASKS

As part of this project, the student will be tasked with the development of a 3D simulator of the lunar drone. The following tasks need to be performed:
# 1: Understand the technical requirements and constraints, as well as the scientific drivers, of the current project, its concept of operations (CONOPS), and predefined drone use case. [1.5 weeks]
# 2: Become familiar, if not already, with the use and limitations of the 3D simulator Gazebo and ROS.
#3: Build a 3D multibody dynamic model of the lunar drone in Gazebo.
#4: Validate the model by analyzing different flight trajectories based on the outcome of the simulations.

CONTACT

Dr. David Rodríguez
Lunar Research & Technology Development Initiative
eSpace – EPFL Space Center
david.rodriguez@epfl.ch

Rover locomotion subsystem design for fast autonomous mobility

Rover locomotion subsystem design for fast extraterrestrial mobility

Supervisor: eSpace (David Rodríguez/Prof. Jean-Paul Kneib)
Type of Project: Semester project or master’s project (PDM)
Duration: 14 weeks (Official start/end date: Sep/20-Dec/24/2022)
Submission of final report: Jan/06/2023
Final Presentation: TBD, tentative Jan/13/2023
Recommended: This project is suitable for a student interested in mechanical design of space systems, lunar/martian exploration technologies, robotics, and automotive engineering with a background in Mechanical, Aerospace, Electrical, or Electronics Engineering.

CONTEXT

The development of new solutions for off-road ground mobility systems becomes an enabler for a number of new exploration missions. Planetary robots are now demanded not only the capacity to operate on a myriad of terrains but to do so at speeds, at times orders of magnitude, higher than ever before. In this context, the project targets the analysis and design of mechanical solutions for the locomotion subsystem of a rover capable of traveling at speeds > 1 m/s.

PROJECT SCOPE

This project will be conducted in cooperation with EPFL Xplore, a student association focusing on planetary robotic technology and participating in the European Rover Challenge.
Off-road locomotion performance is influenced by two aspects: the wheel-soil interaction (i.e., tractive performance) and the suspension performance. This project focuses primarily on the latter.
The project is split in two main parts. Initially, you shall become familiar with the constraints impairing faster locomotion on characteristic planetary surfaces as well as with the state of the art in robotic and off-road vehicle suspension technology. Afterward, you will be tasked with the responsibility of defining a solution for the locomotion subsystem of a rover that enables it to operate at speeds of 1 m/s or greater. The proposed solution shall be fully justified via tradeoffs and preliminary analyses. A mid-term review will take place at this point prior to the second phase of the project.
In the last phase, and upon validation of the proposed mechanical solution, you shall proceed with the buildup of a proof-of-concept. Your design shall be verified either via analytical approaches (e.g., simulations) in the case of a semester project, or via experimental verification in the case of a PDM.

OUTCOME

The outcome of this project shall be:
• For a semester project: the design of the locomotion subsystem for a fast-moving rover (including design tradeoffs, 3D CAD, selection of components) and analytical verification of critical functions (vehicle static and dynamic stability, mitigation of impacts and vibrations).
• For a PDM: the development of a proof-of-concept and experimental verification of critical functions under a relevant environment.

TASKS

The following tasks need to be performed as part of this project. Tentative time allocations are presented as a reference.

Part 1:


# 1:
Study of the state of the art in off-road vehicle suspension technology [15% time allocation, ~2 weeks].
#2: Mechanical design of a rover locomotion subsystem [20% time allocation, ~2.5 weeks].

— Midterm Review —

Part 2:

#3: Proof-of-concept and analytical verification [35% time allocation, ~5 weeks]
#4: Experimental verification of critical functions [30% time allocation, ~4.5 weeks]

CONTACT

Dr. David Rodríguez
Lunar Research & Technology Development Initiative
eSpace – EPFL Space Center
david.rodriguez@epfl.ch

Proof of concept for a lunar camera payload

Proof of concept for a lunar camera payload

Supervisor: eSpace (David Rodríguez/Prof. Jean-Paul Kneib)
Type of Project: Semester project
Duration: 14 weeks (Official start/end date: Sep/20-Dec/24/2022)
Submission of final report: Jan/06/2023
Final Presentation: TBD, tentative Jan/13/2023
Recommended: This project is suitable for a student interested in space systems engineering, lunar exploration technologies, mechanical design, control, and early prototyping with a background in Aerospace, Mechanical, Electrical, Electronics Engineering and/or Physics.

CONTEXT

eSpace, with the collaboration of the Advanced Quantum Architecture Lab, has signed an agreement to support the Moon Village Association maiden attempt to land on the Moon in 2024 by providing a camera payload that will be used, among other things, to broadcast a stream of images of the view of Earth from the lunar surface, tracking its passage across the lunar sky. The objective on words of the MVA will be “to reenact the famous overview effect that first emerged during the Apollo missions.” For details, click HERE.

The camera will make use of the MegaX 1Mpx SPAD sensor technology developed by AQUA. The sensor specifications and its associated electronics have been already defined and a second iteration of the electronics stack is in progress. A simplified architecture as well as a preliminary design of the camera has been defined in previous projects and it contains:
– A Camera Optical Unit (COU) in charge of the pointing mechanism of the lens and the acquisition of images during the mission.
– A Camera Interface Unit (CIU) in charge of camera control, image processing, data storage, communication with the lander, power conditioning and distribution, and the data and power harness.
Further details are described in the Appendix and previous reports will be provided.

PROJECT SCOPE

This project is split in two main parts, both of which can be conducted in parallel or in reversed order based on the availability of components. In the first part of the project you will build a breadboard of the camera mechanical structure and actuation subsystems based on the outcome of previous projects. For this, you will make use of 3D printed parts and off-the-shelf stepper motors. The prototype should be built according to and representative of flight model specifications. A tradeoff and final selection of specific components may be required as part of this first phase of the project. Potential design iterations may be also required.
In the second part of this project, you will work on the control of the COU. This involves defining the actuation of the two motors as well as programming an algorithm for autonomously tracking the Moon across the night sky. This phase ends with an experimental verification of the payload critical functions.
A bonus phase would involve the software and hardware integration of the two main camera units into a fully integrated model. This phase is dependent on AQUA’s progress and status of the COU.

OUTCOME

The outcome of this project shall be in the form of a Breadboard Model (BBM) (i.e., functional prototype) of the lunar camera payload to be used as part of the Moon Village Association upcoming lunar mission.

TASKS

The following tasks need to be performed as part of this project. Tentative time allocations are provided only as a reference:

Part 1:
# 1: Breadboard of the camera mechanical structure and actuation subsystems [40% time allocation, ~5.5 weeks]. Mass dummies representatives of COU/CIU components (inc. wire harness and connectors) shall be used.

Part 2:
#2: Control of the COU and functional verification [45% time allocation, ~6.5 weeks] including experimental verification of an algorithm for autonomously tracking the Moon across the night sky. An off-the-shelf camera can be used for this task.
Bonus:
#3: First complete integration of the camera payload [15% time allocation, ~2 weeks].

CONTACT

Dr. David Rodríguez
Lunar Research & Technology Development Initiative
eSpace – EPFL Space Center
david.rodriguez@epfl.ch

MAKE Projects

MAKE projects are officially attached to various labs at EPFL and include semester, Minor and Master projects

The projects listed are available to EPFL students
and exchange students registered at EPFL
Full conditions and registration HERE

If you have any question or need more information, please contact Candice Norhadian

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