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Discrete element method simulations of Mars Exploration Rover wheel performance

Jerome B. Johnson, Anton V. Kulchitsky, Paul Duvoy, Karl Iagnemma, Carmine Senatore, Raymond E. Arvidson, Jeffery Moore
Journal of Terramechanics, Volume 62, December 2015, Pages 31-40, ISSN 0022-4898,
Mars Exploration Rovers (MERs) experienced mobility problems during traverses. Three-dimensional discrete element method (DEM) simulations of MER wheel mobility tests for wheel slips of i = 0, 0.1, 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, 0.9, and 0.99 were done to examine high wheel slip mobility to improve the ARTEMIS MER traverse planning tool. Simulations of wheel drawbar pull and sinkage MIT data for i ⩽ 0.5 were used to determine DEM particle packing density (0.62) and contact friction (0.8) to represent the simulant used in mobility tests. The DEM simulations are in good agreement with MIT data for i = 0.5 and 0.7, with reasonable but less agreement at lower wheel slip. Three mobility stages include low slip (i < 0.3) controlled by soil strength, intermediate slip (i ∼ 0.3–0.6) controlled by residual soil strength, and high slip (i > 0.6) controlled by residual soil strength and wheel sinkage depth. Equilibrium sinkage occurred for i < 0.9, but continuously increased for i = 0.99. Improved DEM simulation accuracy of low-slip mobility can be achieved using polyhedral particles, rather than tri-sphere particles, to represent soil. The DEM simulations of MER wheel mobility can improve ARTEMIS accuracy.
Keywords: Mars Exploration Rovers; Discrete element method simulation; Mobility testing; Wheel slip