Robotic lunar rovers built by student engineers from six UK universities were recently put through their paces in a series of challenges in the robotics trials area and Lunar Yard at Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire as part of a nationwide competition.
The event was the first Lunar Rover Competition to be organized by the UK’s national student space society UKSEDS and was hosted by the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s RAL Space facility.
The key challenge the lunar rovers had to overcome was based upon a potential future robotic mission to a crater on the lunar south pole.
As part of that mission, each lunar rover was required to drive through rough terrain to the bottom of the crater to collect ice samples. The ice was then tested to ensure it was safe for future astronauts to collect. Like the real mission, the student’s rovers had to be remotely operated via cameras in order to navigate rocks and steep slopes, and had to be designed to survive the rigorous shaking of a simulated rocket launch.
As well as meeting these technical challenges, the students had already successfully presented their designs to a range of space engineering experts at industry standard review panels.
“Opportunities like this are critical for building the practical skills that allow students to excel in the modern workplace,” said James Telfer, chair of UKSEDS.
“In particular, the focus on the processes used in the space industry and engagement with our industrial partners gives a great insight into the challenges that face a new space engineer. Plus, building robots is fun!”
To reach the final stage of the Lunar Rover Competition the six undergraduate teams from across the UK had to design, construct and test a lunar rover to a set of engineering and science requirements over a period of nine months.
The teams from the University of Manchester, the University of Bath, the University of Bristol, the University of Surrey, the University of the West of England and Cranfield University, also had to pass a comprehensive review panel of space industry engineers from Thales Alenia Space in the UK, the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s RAL Space facility, and Oxford Space Systems.
Completion of that review unlocked funding to help the six successful teams build their rovers.
July 25, 2017