The Estonian robotics company, Milrem, has secured a European Space Agency contract to start applying its autonomy capabilities toward planetary rovers.
The current project, planned as the first in a series of projects, is for mapping the current state of the art of planetary rovers and for developing tools to increase planetary rover autonomy, using methods Milrem Robotics is currently applying in its terrestrial ecosystem of products, the company said in a statement.
The European Space Agency’s desired outcome in this project, according to Milrem, is an automatic mission planning system to reduce the amount of human intervention required for various Lunar operations.
“The developed system shall automate the execution of surface operations or respective analogue activities considering input data such as remote observation data of the environment, points of interests with varying priorities and the possibility to descope or add points during runtime, operations required to be performed, rover resources and constraints, and in-situ imagery and other locally gathered data,” Milrem said.
The Global Exploration Roadmap of the European Space Agency foresees the stepwise advancement of humankind into our solar system within the next 20 years, starting with the Moon and using Lunar missions to mature capabilities for enabling more ambitious Mars missions in the next twenty years. In this global vision, robotic missions precede human explorers to the Moon, near-Earth asteroids and Mars.
Kickstart the development of Lunar rovers in Estonia
One such future lunar robotic mission example is the European Large Logistic Lander – known as the EL3. The EL3 project aims at delivering cargo or a rover to the Lunar surface. In the rover option of the project, a surface rover would be controlled to collect surface samples to be returned to Earth. Then the rover could continue the exploration of the surface, covering long-distance traverses while being continuously operated by Surface Operations teams on Earth, Milrem noted.
“Traverses foreseen are in the range of 300 km, meaning a whole new class of distances not covered before by robotic space missions, and requiring significantly increased autonomy and automation capabilities, such as Milrem Robotics is currently developing for terrestrial use cases.”
The current project will kickstart the development of Lunar rovers in Estonia and expand the knowhow and facilities needed to start developments towards future missions, the company added.
Milrem is a leading robotics and autonomous systems developer in Europe, headquartered in Estonia. It’s the leader of a consortium that was awarded €30.6 million from the European Commission’s European Defence Industrial Development Programme to develop a European standardised unmanned ground system.
Cover: Milrem’s THeMIS unmanned ground vehicle. Photo by Milrem.