There are several open challenges in the field of astronautics. One of the most contemporarily relevant of these fields is that of interplanetary exploration, particularly to Mars. With increased strain on the natural resources of the Earth, the prospect of colonizing the Red Planet has become a rather appealing topic for discussion.
With the ultimate goal of building a Mars rover that will prove to be indispensable in exploring the Martian landscape, a group of Engineering students from the Technical University of Munich started working together within the Scientific Workgroup for Rocketry and Spaceflight (German: Wissenschaftliche Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Raketentechnik und Raumfahrt, hence "WARR").
Known as WARR Exploration, the young and small team of 4 Mechanical Engineers, 6 Electrical Engineers, and 8 Software Engineers quickly developed their first prototype and already competed in the 2018 and 2019 European Rover Challenge. Considered as one of the most prestigious Mars rover competitions, it gave WARR Exploration valuable insights for their rover.
Determined to stand out from the competition, the team of students aims to become an integral part of the scientific movement responsible for exploring, studying, and ultimately colonizing Mars.
“To achieve our goals, we need our rover to be capable of physically interacting with its environment,” explains Michael Ebnicher, Project Lead of WARR Exploration. “That’s where our 5 degree-of-freedom robotic arm, capable of harvesting soil samples, collecting payloads, and toggling the settings of a control panel, comes into play.”
Using the 5-DOF arm for all physical interaction between the rover and the environment requires a high amount of dexterity. Especially when you’re competing with others at such a high level. That’s why the team of 18 Engineering Students turned to Trinamic after the 2018 European Rover Challenge according to Max Gögele, Electronics Lead.
“Given the high number of workhours and large emotional commitment at stake, we needed motor controllers capable of precisely and reliably driving the 3 most critical joints: shoulder yaw, elbow pitch, and wrist pitch. It was for this reason that we selected the TMCM-1260 motor drivers. These drivers provided the adequate power and refinement for our application while being contained within a very sophisticated and robust package. When driven, the motors made a very crisp (but quiet) futuristic hum, a sound that was lacking when we used other off-the-shelf motor drivers. It was the sound of peak performance.”
Equipped with the leading-edge hardware, WARR Exploration was able to double their score at the 2019 ERC and finish in 18th place out of 56 (a total of 10 places better than last year).