Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Picorover with Spikes!

The plain Picorover with blank surface is quite good at climbing moderate slopes. Nonetheless, people suggested that the climbing capabilities could be improved by adding spikes to the surface of the sphere. Well, you don't have to tell us twice! Here is the experiment.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Can a Picorover Climb a Slope?

The Picorover team consisting of Raul, Enric and Joshua (leader) are very busy with keeping up to speed with the development of the other rover concepts (Jaluro and WRV1). The Picorover concept has a lot to prove before it can be decided whether it is a feasible design for a lunar rover.

This video shows a feasibility study investigating the dynamical properties of Picorover on a slope. The technical details of the study can be found in Picorover Feasibility Study.

Monday, March 2, 2009

New WRV1 Lunar Rover Mock-up

Here is a new WRV1 lunar rover mock-up from Jörg using the new state of the art wheels, the steering unit and... Stokys (erector set) for the rest. As you can see, there is even plenty of room left for electronics :-)

From WRV1: Wheeled Rover Vehicle 1

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Scaled WRV1 wheel design for the Jaluro lunar rover

As some people have already noticed, one of the advantages of having several competing rover designs being developed in an open-source way is that they can share common components across the designs. An example of this is Jörg's impressive wheel design for his WRV1 lunar rover prototype, which is now also available in an up-scaled version that could be used for the Jaluro lunar rover prototype.

Jaluro is the two-wheeled rover design, while WRV1 is the four-wheeled rover design that can "bend" in the middle. Consequently, Jaluro achieves static stability by moving the center of mass below the axe and therefore needs larger wheels that the WRV1 rover.

WRV1 Lunar Rover:
From WRV1: Wheeled Rover Vehicle 1

Jaluro Lunar Rover:
From Jaluro: Just Another Lunar Rover

Sounds interesting? Feel free to contribute with your ideas in the discussion forums for the Jaluro and the WRV1 lunar rover prototypes.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Ørsted

Today, Feb 23 2009, we could celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first Danish satellite called Ørsted. The main scientific objective of the Ørsted mission was to map the Earth's magnetic field and collect data to determine the changes occurring in the magnetic field.

While a satellite turning 10 years is no big deal on its own, the Ørsted satellite is remarkable in many ways. Despite a very low budget, it provided highly valuable science results published in many prominent scientific journals and graced the cover pages of Geophysical Research Letters, Nature and Eos. Former NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin was rumored to have a model of the Ørsted satellite on display in his office, because it exemplified his "faster, better, cheaper" philosophy.

Ørsted was originally designed to have an operational life time of 14 months, which was eventually extended to a few years. Today, 10 years later, you can still hear it transmit science data in the 2.2 GHz satellite band.

Ørsted is also a satellite that has survived a close encounter with another spacecraft. On March 20, 2001, Ørsted was merely 3.25 km away from collision with the Argentinean SAC-C satellite - a distance that at orbital velocities corresponds to no more than half a second!

In 2010, Ørsted will be replaced by the European Space Agency's Swarm mission. Swarm will consist of three identical satellites that will measure Earth's magnefic field with even higher presicision and resolution. The concept has been developed by Danish scientists and is based on the experience gained through the Ørsetd mission.

The Ørsted satellite by Jan Erik Rasmussen, DTU Space.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Finished WRV1 wheels

I can tell you Jörg has been busy this week but now he has finished two wheels for the WRV1 lunar rover (and we still have the prototype with the disc hub). Have a nice weekend everybody - we'll be back next week with more news.
From WRV1: Wheeled Rover Vehicle 1

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Steering Unit for the WRV1 Lunar Rover

The steering unit in the middle of the WRV1 lunar rover is a critical component because it defines the dynamical properties of the rover - in particular its ability to maneuver. Jörg has now manufactured the three key parts that allow the rover body to bend around two axes.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

WRV1 Wheel Hubs

Jörg has now finished manufacturing four wheel hubs for the WRV1 rover prototype. For reference, I have also included the blueprint that has been posted earlier. Personally, I am very impressed by seeing the real thing look like on the specifications - I wish we could do the same in the software world ;-)

From WRV1: Wheeled Rover Vehicle 1

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Arianespace Launches New WebTV Site

If you like to watch rocket launches you might be glad to know that Arianespace has launched a new WebTV site called VideoCorner just a few days ago.

They broadcast live coverage, the next one 12 Feb 22:09 UTC, as well as archived videos of Vega, Soyuz, and Ariane 5 launches and related topics. They even got a podcast area now :-)

Monday, February 9, 2009

News from Vietnam

Inspired by our Open Source Communication Lab, our friends from Vietnam have started to play with software radios using the USRP and GNU Radio. After a few weeks of study they are now able to receive Automatic Picture Transmissions from the NOAA weather satellites as well as signals from current amateur radio satellites in low Earth orbit.

Inevitably, they have now formed a group of young engineers who are interested in ham radio, electronics, robots, astronomy and space exploration. At the moment, they work in the newly established FSpace lab of FPT Corp. where Thu (who is active on our forum) used to be a software engineer. He has now quit that job to pursuit his dream of space exploration.

Their current project is to design and manufacture a nanosatellite which will measure about 10x10x30cm and weight about 3kg. They expect to have it ready in 18 months (starting from 1/1/2009) and launch it to LEO (600-800km, sun-sync orbit) by the end of 2010. This is the first time they've ever worked in a real space mission. While they understand that there are many things to learn and many difficulties ahead, they are confident that they can do it if they try hard. Currently, they have 4 full-time people (Thu and the other 3 in the photo) and about 10 supporters/collaborators of the project.

From Communication Equipment

PS: Thu has recently passed his amateur radio exam and has now the callsign XV9AA.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Jaluro off the Leash

Let's round off this week with some breaking news about Jaluro and a story about just how crazy we are.

Jaluro is now off the leash! You may remember the first Jaluro video posted about 6 weeks ago when Tobi was making the first tests using a wired connection. Now, Jaluro has got a wireless control and Tobi recorded the video below showing his first outdoor tests using the wireless interface.

We were also happy to see some clear evidence (see NASA and Caltech Test Steep-Terrain Rover) that the two-wheeled concept is a very viable option for planetary exploration. We wish Jaluro could get the same media attention as JPL News ;-)

The evening before Tobi recorded this video, we were hanging out on our IRC channel (#teamfrednet) having some casual chats about "stuff". Suddenly, Tobi got the idea of setting Jaluro up so that Anders and myself could send commands to it from Copenhagen! Before we knew it, we were also broadcasting it live via so that everybody on the channel could watch Jaluro do something as we were sending commands to it. It was a crazy Thursday night that ended around 3 AM CET. You can read the IRC log here.

By the way, anybody is welcome to hang out on our IRC channel. It is #teamfrednet on or you can use a web interface (choose a real nickname instead of mib_***).

I'll be back next week with more crazy news.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Scheduled Radio Contact with the ISS

If you happen to live in Europe, you'll have the chance to listen to the astronauts from the International Space Station as they talk to students from Städtisches Gymnasium Herzogenrath in Germany. The event is scheduled for Saturday Feb 7 and it will begin at approximately 10:36 UTC.

You will need a radio receiver capable of receiving 145.800 MHz narrow FM. The signals from the ISS are usually rather strong and a handheld scanner should be able to receive audible signals.

I don't exactly know which astronaut will be speaking but they will use the ham radio call sign OR4ISS.

The students will ask as many of the following questions as time permits:
1. To what extent do we on earth profit from your experiments on the ISS?
2. What are the aims of your present mission?
3. How much energy do you need daily and what kind of energy is it?
4. What about radiation on the ISS? Does it harm your health?
5. Have you had any problems with oncoming meteorites or space debris?
6. Which qualifications do you need to be on such a mission?
7. What were your feelings and emotions during lift off?
8. Do you lose your sense of time on the ISS?
9. How do you spend your free time on the ISS?
10. Have you got any room for your personal belongings?
11. What happens if you are ill?
12. What happens to the human body if you stay in space too long?
13. How often do you see the sunrise on the ISS per day?
14. What happens in case of an emergency, for example if the ISS is on fire?
15. Can you sleep well in a state of zero gravity?
16. How do you wash your hair?
17. How many experiments do you do a day?
18. Have you and your colleagues become friends?
19. What would you say is your most important experience on the ISS?
20. When do you think will mankind be able to leave our solar system?

ARISS is an international educational outreach program partnering the participating space agencies, NASA, Russian Space Agency, ESA, CNES, JAXA, and CSA, with the AMSAT and IARU organizations from participating countries.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Feature Recognition and Tracking

Autonomous feature recognition and tracking can be a useful navigational aid during the final phase of the lunar landing. This video shows a quick-hack prototype for recognizing and continuously tracking lines and circles at 15 frames per second (the red lines in the second part of the video).

Of course, the situation will be more difficult during lunar descent because deviations from mathematical lines and circles will occur. So there is still a lot of work to do :-)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Update from the Team FREDNET Lunar Babies Club

In the big rush I almost forgot to bring you the latest edition of this rather occasional newsletter - shame on me...

Lunar Baby no. 2
Aaron Magnus Krieger-Kuritko, born 27 Nov 2008 20:00 GMT. Weight: 3,920kg. Proud parents: Theresia and Tobias Krieger Kuritko (yes, Tobi is the creator of Jaluro - really beats me how he has time for a job, family and to work on Jaluro).

From Team FREDNET Lunar Babies

Lunar Baby no. 3 - is already in the loop and you can try to guess the date and time of arrival. The person who comes closest will receive a free Team FREDNET mission patch. The deadline for submitting your guess (as a comment to this post) is Saturday 14 Feb 2009 23:59:59 UTC.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Picorover photos and sketches

Picorover has now its own photo album, which contains more photos and drawings than were included in the video posted few days ago.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Okay, here is the newest entrant in our rover design competition that has caused a lot of discussions on our forum during the last few days: A moving sphere with two degrees of freedom. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Two-wheel robot shoots for the Moon

It has been brought to my attention that in addition to the Ask Charlie Blog there is also an article in Control Engineering about Team FREDNET, JALURO , and the Google Lunar X PRIZE in general. You can read the article online here.

Ask Charlie: Is it possible to stabilize a 2-wheel robotic vehicle?

Yes, it's about JALURO :-)
Charlie Masi from Control Engineering blogged about our 2-wheel rover prototype and the control challenges we are faced with. While the 2-wheel setup with underslung chassis is statically stable, the pendulum-like properties make it difficult to keep the rover body stable during acceleration and deceleration. You can read the blog post, which also contains an analysis, on the Control Engineering website.

For the sake of completeness, I've included the video showing JALURO's first test drive (this was already posted back in December 2008).

Friday, January 16, 2009

Updated wheel hub and blueprints for WRV1

It has been a busy week both at my daytime job, which pays my bills, and my nighttime job, FREDNET. In the meantime Jörg has uploaded an updated wheel design for WRV1 as well as some blueprints hoping to find people who can help manufacturing the many parts. So, GLXP fans, here is your chance to help building some hardware for this cool lunar rover prototype! Let us know if you can help.

The wheel with the new hub and modified segments:

Wheel segment:

The wheel spoke:

From WRV1: Wheeled Rover Vehicle 1

Monday, January 12, 2009

Steering Gearbox with Redundant Motors for WRV1

Jörg posted an update on the steering Gearbox using two stepper motors (for redundancy) and the shaft for moving the two WRV1 halves.

From WRV1: Wheeled Rover Vehicle 1

Friday, January 9, 2009

Mooncast Simulation in HD

While working on our on-board video processing pipeline we reached a point where we needed a test video that would be representative of a mooncast for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. Using a regular video is not the best solution here because a mooncast has a different motion and color profile and these parameters can have great influence on the efficiency of the compression algorithms.
Therefore, we took some Apollo 17 surface photos from EVA 2 Station 4 (Shorty crater) and created a simulated mooncast consisting of a 360 degree pan. To make it a bit more entertaining we added some original voice recordings from the EVA.

The simulation uses stereographic projection, which allows panning and zooming in all directions. The vertical field of view is 60 degrees. The flickering of the small stones is an artifact of the projection algorithm and not the video compression. We will have to improve that.

Watch in HD

So what do you think? Is the quality good enough for a GLXP mooncast? Or is it too bad? Is the panning too slow or too fast? Leave your comments!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

One rover, two rovers... many rovers?

If you have followed Team FREDNET during the last few months you have probably noticed that our team members are working on two very different rover designs. Why do we develop several designs instead of focusing our efforts on the design?

The thing is that we are trying to build up a large and engaged community and there are many ways to do it. We have chosen a way where instead of expecting everybody to support one official design line we invite and encourage people to work on their own ideas and demonstrate that it provides the best solution for a given problem. Using our public forum and wiki they can collaborate with other members of the team and share common components across the competing designs. They may even find other members who support their idea and would like to contribute to it. They can organize themselves in informal working groups without the need for any official approval from the team management.

While this may not be the most efficient way towards winning the Google Lunar X PRIZE, we are sure that this is one of the best ways to engage interested individuals and groups and give them a fair chance to prove what they are capable of. Basically, it is the same concept as the whole Google Lunar X PRIZE but applied at a smaller scale.

Currently we have this parallel design study/competition concept going on in the rover area, but we expect similar parallel design studies applied to other subsystems as well. If the organizational concept works out, we can at the end choose the most suitable configuration. It also provides additional security against making the wrong design decisions early in the process and suffering from it for the rest of the program.

The two rover concepts currently being worked on at Team FREDNET: WRV1 (left) and Jaluro (right).

Of course, turning an idea into a design and implementation that can prove suitable for a lunar mission requires hard work and stamina. There is a very long way from a conceptual design to a working prototype. Fortunately, we have many active members who has the right stuff to take their ideas all the way to the end.

You can read more about our rover design competition Moon amateurs invite rover designs from the public.

What are your thoughts about this? Will it work or will it leave us in a hopeless situation? We'd love to hear your comments.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Moon with a Webcam

I am working on a setup where I'm trying to mount a cheap webcam onto my Meade ETX-90 telescope for terrestrial observations. While I was working on the setup the other night I looked out the window and saw the Moon behind a tree. Without thinking too much I pointed the telescope towards the Moon and recorded this video.

Concerning the bad quality it should be noted that:

  • It was recorded with a webcam
  • It was recorded through a double-glas window (which was dirty)
  • The Moon was behind a tree

I will try to improve on the setup, although I made it for a completely different purpose.