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SpaceHopper is a student project under the Robotic Systems Lab at ETH Zurich, where 10 students develop a three legged-robot for low gravity environments. The long term goal of the project is to develop a low-cost and light platform for asteroid exploration. Motion in low gravity seems very different than our intuitions based on the earth, since hopping instead of walking becomes the most efficient way of moving. And SpaceHopper aims to do exactly that. The robot will hop great distances and land safely on its feet by reorienting itself midair (or midspace to be scientifically correct) like a cat does.
Space readiness is not among the requirements of the project at its first year. We aim to demonstrate the traversing capabilities of the robot in extremely low gravity environments, with the test setups to be developed as part of the project.
To at first test and verify the design choices and since the final spatial restrictions of the robot were uncertain, we designed and ordered 2 demo PCBs from Eurocircuits. On one of them is the microcontroller and all connectors it necessitated, so that we could start with programming without further delay. On the other one is the power distribution implemented to facilitate tests with the rest of the power system of the robot before we acquired the final PCB.
In accordance with the feedbacks we received and the flaws that emerged in tests, we designed and ordered the final PCB assembled from Eurocircuits.
The Main PCB
On the main PCB are the microcontroller, the power distribution system and the sensor interfaces of the robot. It is designed to fit in the middle section as shown below.
To ease prototyping and to increase reliability, a plug-in design approach was practiced. Every component on the microcontroller subsection can be replaced and tested outside the PCB.
With the help of Eurocircuits’ browser visualizers and their extremely valuable and quick expert feedback, both the production and the assembly of the main PCB went flawlessly. And having tested all functionalities of the PCB, we can say that we’re very satisfied with the production.
For the next two months, we’ll be working on the test setups that demonstrate the robot’s motion capabilities. If you’re interested and would like to hear the latest news regarding SpaceHopper, please follow us on social media!