System engineers talk about how the robotic arm of NASA’s perseverance Rover connects with the drill bit
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docking occurs twice during sample collection. First, the robot arm is docked to put down the currently stuck abrasive bit and pick up a coring bit with an empty sample tube. Then, after collecting the rock samples, it butts again and puts down the coring bit with the now filled sample tube. These samples will be processed, sealed and stored by the storage assembly
robot arm image taken by Watson camera on perseverance. At the time of obtaining this picture, a door in front of the seat rotator was still closed and later opened
The working principle of
docking is to guide a group of small columns at the end of the manipulator into a group of matching cones on the base. Imagine plugging a charger into a mobile phone or computer — even if you don’t think about it, you rely on tactile feedback from your hands and fingertips to feel whether you need to slide the plug aside to better align it and know when it reaches the bottom. The same is true for the docking mode of the manipulator. The force sensor at the end of the manipulator tells perseverance how hard it is and in which direction. Perseverance uses these data to guide the manipulator in place and determine the completion time of docking. (docking also includes microswitches at the bottom of each cone, which are pressed as an additional verification when the manipulator is about to dock). Once the column reaches the bottom of the cone, the manipulator will move at almost 650n (146 pounds) Push the docking hard to ensure that it remains docked during bit exchange.
I have been engaged in docking for most of my six-year career in JPL. My goal is to make it reliable and simple – just like the charging head plugged into your mobile phone. It takes a lot of time to achieve this A lot of design and testing (including nearly 2000 times on various test platforms on earth), and I am honored to see that docking has successfully occurred many times on Mars. Every time we collect samples, I am always a little nervous, but my fingers will cross together, hoping for more successful and easy docking attempts