Ryan Kinnett’s Micro Rover isn’t the only 3D-printable rover built by people affiliated with real spaceflight hardware. We also have a rover from European Space Agency’s ESTEC facility at Noordwijk, Netherlands. This facility holds an annual Open Day and in 2018 they showed off a little motorized rover that was much loved by the guests. After some evolution, the model was released worldwide earlier this year as the ExoMy rover with backing of ESA’s publicity department.
ExoMy’s spaceflight counterpart is ESA’s ExoMars rover, which has since been given the name Rosalind Franklin in honor of the accomplished scientist. But unlike most of the other rovers I’ve examined, ExoMy’s design priority was not on scale mechanical fidelity. Instead, ExoMy designers went for an approachable cute appearance. Its suspension still follows the general triple-bogie geometry of Rosalind Franklin, but with stubbier proportions. Rather than a faithful copy of the instrument cluster atop the mast, ExoMy has an anthropomorphic face with eyes and a mouth whose smile happens to be a stylized version of the ESA logo. The head is designed to be modular so rover builders can vary expression and add accessories like tophats and bowties. Very clever, and very cute.
I think it’s worth investigating to make a cute cartoony variant of the JPL rovers as well, for public outreach with younger audiences. (I’ve stated this before, and work has already begun. More details later on this blog.)
Mechanically, all ExoMy articulation comes from standard-sized remote control hobby servo motors. Six continuous rotation variants for wheel rolling, and six position control servos for steering. With ability to steer all six wheels, ExoMy can crab sideways which is not possible with the design used by JPL rovers (and the rovers they inspired) who have fixed nonsteerable middle wheels. Rosalind Franklin also has an additional degree of motion to articulate the wheels to “wheel-walk” across difficult terrain. ExoMy skipped this feature but perhaps an ambitious rover builder will find a way to incorporate it into their design.
Like all the rovers examined over the past few posts, wheel forces are borne directly by their gearboxes without assistance of ball bearings to help take the load. Looks like I am the only one picky about this topic, and I’m perfectly OK with that. It means I have something to set my rover designs apart.
As I mentioned in my Hackaday post about ExoMy, it was probably intended to be released alongside the launch of Rosalind Franklin. Unfortunately the big rover missed its launch window, leaving the little one to take up publicity for ESA’s Martian exploration this year. With such a charming presence, ExoMay is up to the task.
One non-rover-specific feature that caught my attention on ExoMy was the attention paid to keeping wires neat and tidy, tucked into channels designed into suspension arms. My own rover is not so tidy.
UPDATE: I found an ESA page with side-by-side image comparing ExoMy with Rosalind Franklin (ExoMars)