Vision-Based Approach in Contact Modelling between the Footpad of the Lander and the Analogue Representing Surface of Phobos

Sensors (Basel). 2021 Oct 22;21(21):7009. doi: 10.3390/s21217009.


Identifying solar system surface properties of celestial bodies requires the conducting of many tests and experiments in conditions similar to those found on various objects. One of the first tasks to be solved by engineers is determining the contact condition between the lander and the surface of a given celestial body during landing in a microgravity environment. This paper presents the results of experimental studies and numerical simulations of the contact phenomenon between the lander foot model and the Phobos analogue. The main goal of the experimental tests was to obtain measured deformation data of the studied analogues using 2D and 3D vision systems, which were employed to analyze the behavior of the lander foot and the surface of the studied analogue itself and to calibrate the numerical models. The analogue representing the Phobos surface was foam concrete. The variable parameters in the study were the analogue thickness and the lander foot velocity at the time of contact. Tests were conducted for three different contact velocities of 1.2 m/s, 3.0 m/s, and 3.5 m/s. Taking into account the mass of the lander foot model, kinetic energies of 30.28 J, 189.22 J, and 257.56 J were obtained. The results showed that at low contact velocities, and thus low kinetic energies, no significant differences in behavior of the material directly under the lander foot were observed, and similar values of forces in the lander foot were obtained. For higher contact velocities, the behavior of analogues with varying thicknesses was different, resulting in different values of analogue deformation and dynamics of increments and decrements of force in the lander foot itself. Although performed on a single material, the experiments revealed different behaviors depending on its thickness at the same impact energy. This is an essential guideline for engineers who need to take this fact into account when designing the lander itself.

Keywords: Phobos analogue; contact modelling; vision systems.