Autonomous PUFFER (A-PUFFER)

The Autonomous PUFFER project

The Autonomous PUFFER project will focus on developing new needed capabilities: autonomy for accurate instrument placement in extreme terrain, minimal operational intervention, and coordination with other platforms.

Currently, planetary exploration is limited to benign operating areas due to the inability to land, traverse challenging terrain, or generally too great a risk for the primary mission asset. Unfortunately the most compelling locations are often in these extreme terrains.

A small, low cost, expendable rover could transport key sensors and instruments to locations considered too risky for the primary lander, rover, or astronaut. Also, due to the high communications latencies of deep space missions, these expendable rovers must minimize their dependence on ground control and be able to operate primarily autonomously. NASA needs this capability to augment current missions, such as Lunar and Mars rovers, where the terrain is extremely challenging and considered too risky for the primary platform to access.

Specific capabilities needed for a deployable, expendable rover include: low cost, low volume, low mass, mobility in extreme terrain, and science payload capability, which all have been demonstrated with PUFFER (Pop-Up Flat-Folding Explorer Robots) during the previous Game Changing Development Program (GCDP) effort. The Autonomous PUFFER project will focus on developing new needed capabilities: autonomy for accurate instrument placement in extreme terrain, minimal operational intervention, and coordination with other platforms. To support the development of these new autonomy capabilities for PUFFER, the hardware platform developed in the prior GCDP effort will be updated to support new requirements from autonomy (e.g., mesh radios for PUFFER-to-PUFFER communication).

Principal Technologist Project Manager
(Autonomy PI)
Deputy Project Manager
(Hardware PI)
Terry Fong
(terry.fong@nasa.gov)
Jean-Pierre de la Croix
(Jean-Pierre.de.la.Croix@jpl.nasa.gov)
Jaakko Karras
(Jaakko.T.Karras@jpl.nasa.gov)

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