Nonlinear mechanics of flexible cables in space robotic arms subject to complex physical environment

Yuwang Liu, Jibiao Chen, Jinguo Liu, Xingjian Jing

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


A nonlinear model of a special cable in space robotic arms is developed in space environment. The mechanic effects of control cables in powerful robots can often be neglected. However, in complex space multi-physics environments, involving ultra-low temperature, radiation, and other extreme conditions of outer space, the externally mounted cables (protected by shielding layers) can induce strong nonlinear interference to robot arms; and this can induce further small-range slow rotations or oscillations of the flexible joint of robots at a specific posture, which consequently affect the precision and operation performance of end effectors. Effective mathematical models on nonlinear mechanics of strong cables under multi-physics environments and their effects on weak robots have not been well developed yet. Complex key factors, such as low gravity, nonlinear friction, and unexpected curved surface constraints, have not been extensively investigated either. In this study, considering all these key factors, a Kirchhoff nonlinear mechanical model of cables in complex space environments is developed, and a relatively improved algorithm based on a trust-region strategy is proposed for solving this nonlinear model, based on which the geometry and terminal force of the modeled robot cable can be obtained. The validity and accuracy of the proposed algorithm and theoretical calculation results are verified via experiments. The theoretical findings revealed in this study are significant to future research on the slow rotations and oscillations of weak robot joints in space exploration with robotic arms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-667
Number of pages19
JournalNonlinear Dynamics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • Curved surface contact
  • Kirchhoff nonlinear mechanics
  • Slow rotation of joints
  • Strong nonlinear interference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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