For the multibody simulation of planetary rover operations, a wheel-soil contact model is necessary to represent the forces and moments between the tire and the soft soil. A novel nonlinear contact modelling approach based on the properties of the hypervolume of interpenetration is validated in this paper. This normal contact force model is based on the Winkler foundation model with nonlinear spring properties. To fully define the proposed normal contact force model for this application, seven parameters are required. Besides the geometry parameters that can be easily measured, three soil parameters representing the hyperelastic and plastic properties of the soil have to be identified. Since it is very difficult to directly measure the latter set of soil parameters, they are identified by comparing computer simulations with experimental results of drawbar pull tests performed under different slip conditions on the Juno rover of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). A multibody dynamics model of the Juno rover including the new wheel/soil interaction model was developed and simulated in MapleSim. To identify the wheel/soil contact model parameters, the cost function of the model residuals of the kinematic data is minimized. The volumetric contact model is then tested by using the identified contact model parameters in a forward dynamics simulation of the rover on an irregular 3-dimensional terrain and compared against experiments.

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