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Applied Bionics and Biomechanics
Volume 7 (2010), Issue 1, Pages 69-81

Passive Control of Attachment in Legged Space Robots

Alessandro Gasparetto,1 Renato Vidoni,1 and Tobias Seidl2

1DIEGM, Department of Electrical, Management and Mechanical Engineering, University of Udine, Via delle Scienze, Udine, Italy
2Advanced Concepts Team, European Space Agency, AZ Noordwijk, Netherlands

Received 20 March 2009

Copyright © 2010 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In the space environment the absence of gravity calls for constant safe attachment of any loose object, but the low-pressure conditions prohibit the use of glue-type adhesives. The attachment system of freely hunting spiders, e.g. Evarcha arcuata, employs van der Waals forces and mechanical interlocking. Furthermore, detachment is achieved passively and requires little force. Hence, the spider serves as a model for a versatile legged robot for space applications, e.g. on the outer surface of a space station. In this paper, we analyse the dry attachment systems of E. arcuata and geckos as well as the kinematics of freely hunting spiders. We generalise the results of biological studies on spider locomotion and mobility, including the major movement and the position constraints set by the dry adhesion system. From these results, we define a simplified spider model and study the overall kinematics of the legs both in flight and in contact with the surface. The kinematic model, the data on spider gait characteristics and the adhesion constraints are implemented in a kinematic simulator. The simulator results confirm the principal functionality of our concept.