Landing of hopping rovers on Irregularly-shaped small bodies using attitude control

Xiangyu Li, Amit K. Sanyal, Rakesh R. Warier, Dong Qiao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


A hopping rover that is driven only by internal or external attitude actuators is an ideal mobility approach for surface exploration of small solar system bodies. Without thrust control and grasping mechanisms, a hopping rover is mechanically simple to design and less prone to mechanical failures, but faces challenges during soft landing. It may rebound from the surface, causing deviations from its original landing site. In this paper, landing of a hopping rover on the surface of an asteroid is investigated, and a strategy using only attitude control to shorten the landing distance is proposed. Based on rigid body impact dynamics, the edge impact configuration is investigated in detail. The factors that affect the impact states of a cube-shaped hopping rover are studied. Then, controlled edge landing is analyzed, in which the post-impact velocity of the hopping rover is changed by controlling its attitude prior to impact. Three guidance schemes are developed, followed by attitude profile generation and finite time stable attitude control. Finally, simulations are performed on an ideal flat surface and uneven terrain. The results show that controlled edge landing can effectively reduce the landing distance and settling time, compared with uncontrolled landing. This study on hopping motion on the surface of an irregular-shaped asteroid with attitude control, can provide a reference for hopper trajectory plan in future asteroid surface explorations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2674-2691
Number of pages18
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Attitude control
  • Hopping rover
  • Irregular-shaped small bodies
  • Landing control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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