NASA has recently announced the start of a project to create robots to study asteroids. In this robot will work on the surface of the asteroid that entails some difficulty for the job.
The fact that the force of gravity of an asteroid can not keep anything moving actively tracked, jet or walking machine. A small mistake, a little more active push - and all the robot flies into space, and there, in the void, sent hopes of obtaining information about an asteroid.
In NASA decided to use to work on the asteroid is not familiar to us wheeled, tracked, walking and all other types of devices, and inertial systems. From the outside it looks like a cube rolling over. Works all around so:
Or like this:
Needless to say, such inertial systems must be modified in accordance with the conditions of microgravity. By the way, about the system used space telescopes and some other devices operating in space. To change the position in space in such devices are used flywheels. The planned method of moving the probe along the surface of the asteroid - not the most accurate way to travel, but quite effective in such conditions.
Furthermore, the outer portion of the cube would be no moving parts and the energy consumed is very little. To ensure energy inertial cube will use solar panels placed on the body. In addition, such a probe can be integrated scientific instruments that will study the object on different parameters.
It is planned that these probes, this unit will be simple and not very expensive. Asteroids will deliver their mother ship, throwing out a group of cubes to achieve the objective. Commands for the cubes will be transmitted through such a ship.
Current financing, the plan is not intended to bring the project to the final stage - the creation of the final version of the cube. Far from it. The plan NASA, the goal of the project - upgrading of TRL ( Technology Readiness Levels
) to 3.5. Now TRL = 2, which means "formulated technological design concept." Level 3 - this is a theoretical and practical proof of concept. Level 4 - Creation of elements of the prototype and prototype, able to function with a simulated environment.
In general, the final stage of this project - proof of concept "bouncing cube", with perhaps the manufacture of some parts of the layout, or even a computer model of a cube.
By the way, the level of TRL, is 8, means producing entirely functioning system, which has already passed all the tests in conditions as similar to the real ones. Before the flight to an asteroid is still far, a lot of time, so that the project bouncing cube has all chances to be realized.