Planetary rovers' wheel-soil interaction mechanics: New challenges and applications for wheeled mobile robots

Liang Ding, Zongquan Deng, Haibo Gao, Keiji Nagatani, Kazuya Yoshida

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


With the increasing challenges facing planetary exploration missions and the resultant increase in the performance requirements for planetary rovers, terramechanics (wheel-soil interaction mechanics) is playing an important role in the development of these rovers. As an extension of the conventional terramechanics theory for terrestrial vehicles, the terramechanics theory for planetary rovers, which is becoming a new research hotspot, is unique and puts forward many new challenging problems. This paper first discusses the significance of the study of wheel-soil interaction mechanics of planetary rovers and summarizes the differences between planetary rovers and terrestrial vehicles and the problems arising thereof. The application of terramechanics to the development of planetary rovers can be divided into two phases (the R&D phase and exploration phase for rovers) corresponding to the high-fidelity and simplified terramechanics models. This paper also describes the current research status by providing an introduction to classical terramechanics and the experimental, theoretical, and numerical researches on terramechanics for planetary rovers. The application status of the terramechanics for planetary rovers is analyzed from the aspects of rover design, performance evaluation, planetary soil parameter identification, dynamics simulation, mobility control, and path planning. Finally, the key issues for future research are discussed. The current planetary rovers are actually advanced wheeled mobile robots (WMRs), developed employing cutting-edge technologies from different fields. The terramechanics for planetary rovers is expected to present new challenges and applications for WMRs, making it possible to develop WMRs using the concepts of mechanics and dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-38
Number of pages22
JournalIntelligent Service Robotics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Jan


  • Control
  • Design and performance evaluation
  • Dynamics simulation
  • Planetary rover
  • Soil parameter identification
  • Terramechanics


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