Florida Space Institute (FSI) Exploration Rover Classifications

FSI, together with Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC) and NASA, sponsor, manager, or support student led rover design projects, rover competitions, and rover projects.  Projects range from small, backpack sized devices to those capable of carrying significant payloads (90 KG in 1G).  It is no longer reasonable to talk about Rovers as “Small”, “Medium” or “Large”; something better, more suitable to the discussions, is needed.  An often suggested metric is mass.  While suitable for flight systems, mass is less suitable for experimentation or non-flight projects as it is mostly driven by component selection and will change dramatically during the system life-cycle.  What starts out as a 10 KG rover may well end up looking exactly the same as a 2 KG rover. The attribute that seems to most support useful classification is volume, specifically the volume of the robot when configured for transport.  This will include external arms and devices, but with them in a stowed configuration.  

The Classification must support a range of rover sizes, while remaining useful and not overly granular.  A linear progression runs the risk of being overly granular and a logarithmic progression combines overly granular with a rapid progression outside of the useful range.  The solution chosen is a geometric progression with each Class being twice the volume of the Class before with the base unit (1R), about half the size of the NASA RASSOR 2 robot or similar in size to the NASA Mini-RASSOR.  A Sub-R robot, anything smaller than the Mini-RASSOR, would be something more the size of a SWARMIE.  

The primary classification for FSI / FSGC robot size going forward will be volume, as outlined in the table below.  Class divisions will be the midpoint between the classes.  For reference, the 2019 NASA Robotic Mining Competition size limit is at the upper boundary of the 2R Class.  Future robot project calls will be identified by these classes.

Rover ClassVolume in M^3ExamplesMass (reference only)
1R1/4Mini-RASSOR, Cozy Coupe
0.752019 RMC100 KG
3R1.0Pisces300 KG, 90 KG payload
4R2.0Opportunity, SpiritFlt – 200 KG
5R4.01/2 Apollo Lunar Rover
6R8.0Curiosity, SmartFor2 CarFlt – 900 KG

The table above provides the name of the Rover Class, the associated volume, sample rovers and (where available), mass information for representative rovers.

RE-RASSOR Project (Research and Education version of the NASA RASSSOR Robot)


Student Design Projects in general, and University Design Projects in particular, are increasingly focused on planetary robotic exploration.  This is observed graduate level in proposals and projects, undergraduate level Senior Design Programs and High School Robotics Clubs and Classes.  In all cases, effort is spent to both develop the exploration systems and instrumentation as well as the mobility platform(s) necessary to enable the use of the new capabilities.  Often these mobility platforms consume a significant portion of project resources leaving little for mission systems.  The Challenge is to develop some commonality for mobility platforms such that off the shelf designs for both the Hardware and the Software exist and can be used for STEM / STEAM Education.  An Opportunity exists to combine NASA Kennedy SwampWorks design expertise with the UCF Student developed EZ-RASSOR robotic software and the expertise and mission of the Florida Space Institute to create the tools, systems, methods and technology to meet this challenge.



That there exists a rover mobility platform, complete with necessary simulation and operations software, sufficiently modular and extensible, suitable for basic additive manufacturing technologies and licensed for Research and Education use.  Further, that a reference model exists to enable successfully Student project development and/or provide extensions to the platform itself; accompanied by a library of past modifications and augmentations to the platform is available and sufficiently curated to allow reliable re-use.



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