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Robotic Explorer for Hypothesized Surfaces – NAU


Northern Arizona University


Cobalt Class (2019 – 2020)


Badir Alrefi, Mechanical Engineering
Mackenzie Chasse, Mechanical Engineering, (Business Minor)
Jeremiah Curnalia, Mechanical Engineering
Jacob Morrissey, Mechanical Engineering
Dylan Randall, Mechanical Engineering
Fredrick Roberts, Computer Science, Engineering Management (ASU)


Dr. Joe Juarez, Lecturer, School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, ASU
Dr. Sarah Oman, Lecturer, Mechanical Engineering, NAU


The Psyche mission is set to launch in 2022 and arrive at the asteroid in 2026. It is an orbiter mission and will not land on the surface. Instead, it will spend 21 months performing science operations from four staging orbits, which become successively closer. This will be NASA’s first space mission to a world likely made largely of metal, rather than rock or ice. The Psyche mission will take a giant step forward in our understanding of this mysterious world. It is possible to imagine, however, that after learning about Psyche from orbit, there may be scientists and engineers interested in proposing a subsequent mission to actually land on the asteroid to explore and sample its surface. Capstone teams are invited to take on that challenge!

Designing to the range of hypothesized surfaces that might be found at Psyche (and keeping in mind other constraints such as its gravity), the team is designing and prototyping a robotic explorer capable of efficiently traversing each of the hypothesized surfaces of Psyche and, ideally, able to adapt to each of them mid-traverse. Hypothesized surfaces may include: mostly flat metallic surface, flat metallic with metal and/or rocky debris, rough/high-relief metallic and/or rocky terrain, high-relief metallic crater walls.