Meet Hedgehog — NASA’s new tumbling, hopping rover

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A new robot is being developed by NASA researchers to help navigate rough terrain on comets and other rough surfaces in space.

The Hedgehog is being jointly developed by researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California; Stanford University in Stanford, California; and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

“Hedgehog is a different kind of robot that would hop and tumble on the surface instead of rolling on wheels. It is shaped like a cube and can operate no matter which side it lands on,” said Issa Nesnas, leader of the JPL team.

Courtesy: NASA

Courtesy: NASA

The Hedgehog is shaped like a cube with spikes. It moves by spinning and braking internal flywheels that make the Hedgehog hop and tumble across the terrain.

Two prototypes — one from Stanford and one from JPL — were tested aboard NASA’s C-9 aircraft for microgravity research in June 2015.

The JPL Hedgehog prototype has eight spikes and three flywheels. It weighs about 11 pounds (5 kilograms) by itself, but the researchers envision that it could weigh more than 20 pounds (9 kilograms) with instruments such as cameras and spectrometers. The Stanford prototype is slightly smaller and lighter, and it has shorter spikes.

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