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Serpentine Robots for Planetary Exploration (SERPEX)

Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Space (CIRIS), SINTEF ICT (Applied Cybernetics) and The Norwegian Space Centre (NRC) are cooperating in the SERPEX project, which aims at investigating the feasibility of employing snake robots in future planetary exploration missions. The project is funded by The European Space Agency (ESA).
Researchers at CIRiS and SINTEF see great potential in the use of snake robots in space missions involving planetary exploration. A snake robot can for instance work together with a planetary rover through a tethered connection, and can also act as the manipulator arm of the rover when it is not crawling freely. The SERPEX project will identify advantages, disadvantages, possibilities, and challenges related to the use of such mechanisms in a space mission context.
CIRiS`s contribution to the project focus on the operational aspects of using snake robots for space missions. The robotic ExoMars mission planned for 2018 and the “Mars design reference architecture 5.0” will be used as mission reference and the discussions will focus on to aspects. (1) How snake robots can complement current rover technology to achieve mission science requirements and (2) Snake robots in the context of astronaut – robot cooperation and interaction.
The long-term motivation behind the project is the development of a robotic propulsion mechanism that can reach and operate in locations not accessible by existing planetary rovers. The many application areas of snake robots on earth imply that the technological development of a snake robot for space missions will have strong synergies with related earthbound applications. Many industries and application areas on earth can both support and make use of the technological elements of a snake robot developed for space missions.

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