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  Goodyear developing lunar rover wheel

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Author Topic:   Goodyear developing lunar rover wheel
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 12-04-2008 02:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company release
Goodyear and NASA Successfully Recreate Original Moon Tire; Work sets baseline for future space missions

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and NASA have taken one small step backward to make one giant leap forward and help prepare for future missions to the moon and to Mars.

Goodyear and the NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) recently completed a jointly-funded project for the development and production of twelve replicates of the original wire-mesh moon tire used on the Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle in the early 1970s. This was the first step toward understanding this unique non-pneumatic tire technology, and its applications on both the moon and Earth.

"Although there was some reference material for designing the replicate tire, there was little detail about the manufacturing process," said Goodyear Project Leader Rick Laske, noting how the team had to reinvent techniques to recreate the wire mesh tire. The team examined one of the moon tires on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and corresponded with two retired members of the Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle team, who each had a tire that had been given to them as a souvenir for their work. Examination of the original moon tires provided the primary reference information for judging the quality of the replicates, according to Vivake Asnani, NASA's principal investigator.

Four major components comprise the tire and wheel design: mesh, tread, inner-frame, and hub. The mesh is woven from piano wire and the tread is a series of metal strips intended to protect the mesh from impact while providing increased contact area for floatation in soft soil.

An inner-frame, comprised of a relatively rigid metal structure, prevents the mesh from over-deforming during impact, while the hub holds the mesh and inner-frame together and connects the assembly to the vehicle.

"Before the wire mesh could be woven, 3,000 feet of wire had to be custom-crimped and cut into 800 pieces," said Laske. A hand loom was designed to weave the crimped wires into a rectangle measuring approximately 100 inches long and 25 inches wide. Each end of the rectangular weave was then interlaced by hand to form a cylinder, which behaves in a manner similar to a child's finger trap puzzle, lengthening and shortening with changes in its diameter.

Sides of the mesh cylinder were pulled down and clamped to a circular jig, roughly the size of a wheel hub, to give the mesh the shape of a tire. Then the jig and mesh were baked in an industrial oven to relieve residual stress from the wire.

The twelve replicate tires were evaluated for geometry, stiffness, and other performance factors, and compared against data from the two antique moon tires, as well as limited measurements taken in the 1960s. "The measurements indicate that the original and replicate wire mesh moon tires have nearly identical mechanical properties," said Asnani, "We are now testing the replicates to determine their traction and endurance capabilities. These data will enable NASA and industry to determine possible applications for the wire mesh tire."

"There was great synergy in this project, and we are continuing our collaboration to mature this technology," Asnani added. Goodyear's and NASA's expertise are now being applied to the development of a second generation of tires, capable of outfitting a future fleet of lunar vehicles.


Posts: 2024
From: Belfast, United Kingdom
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 12-15-2008 05:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
WOW! This must be the first time that somebody really has re-invented the wheel!


Posts: 3023
From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 12-15-2008 06:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The basic design has been around longer then most realize. The Goliath wheels, and the older NASA lunar wheels ala Grumman and Bendix style, are mostly based on the original CATLEY patent. The Catley patent, is also predated by designs of flexible buggy wheels, circa 1890's. This has been the basis of multiple other designs, and has been contested in patent world, multiple times, including by recent Chinese designers, in toy-world, and in machinery-design world.

NASA was involved in a patent fight about these wheel designs, including wire wheels used on the LRV, and the CATLEY patent is generally represented as the first example of a wheel which has independent up/down flexure parameters, which are independent of the left-right slewing flexures. The newer Michelin "Tweel" differs from the LRV tires and Goodyear approach in that it is based on this same concept, and the flex-wire wheel of the original Lunar Rovers did not have this degree of side-stiffness.

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