ISS astronaut eager to operate METERON rover on Earth
1 September 2015 - In the early morning of 2 September, ESA’s Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen will fly on a Soyuz spacecraft for a short-duration mission of 8 days on board the International Space Station (ISS). Once on board, he’ll get to work inside ESA’s Columbus laboratory, carrying out a series of European experiments to test new technologies and operational techniques for future space missions. Belgium is giving operational support for two of them.
The Danish astronaut has a tight schedule on the ISS, including the operation of several scientific experiments. Prompted with the question which of these experiments he’s most excited about, Andreas answered that "there are several very interesting experiments, but as an engineer I am looking forward to control the rovers on the ground from the ISS."
The astronaut will drive different rovers while orbiting the Earth at 400 km altitude. One of them is Eurobot, a rover developed within the frame of the METERON-project for which the Belgian User Support and Operations Centre (B.USOC) is supporting the preparation and execution of the operations on the ISS. B.USOC is also responsible for the THOR experiment, during which Andreas will take pictures of thunderstorms from space.
METERON (Multi-Purpose End-To-End Robotic Operation Network) is developing the communication networks, robot interfaces and hardware to operate robots from a distance in space, and should enable Europe in the future to explore the moon, Mars and other planetary surfaces. The International Space Station is used as testbed, with astronauts controlling rovers on Earth.
The project includes collaboration between the ISS space agencies (NASA, ESA, Roscosmos) and DLR developing the necessary technology for commanding a robot on Earth by an astronaut on the ISS.
The engineering and operations teams of B.USOC are delivering operational support to the METERON project by ensuring the connectivity between ISS and ESA facility where the robot is located.
THOR will observe atmospheric luminous phenomena related to large thunderstorms using optical cameras. Andreas Mogensen will take images of giant lightning and thunder clouds through the windows of the International Space Station.
The experiment objectives are closely related to ASIM (Atmosphere-Space Interaction Monitor), a future Danish payload of the ISS European Module designed to better analyse those phenomena. ESA delegated the overall operational responsibility for ASIM to B.USOC.
B.USOC is a services centre providing engineering and operational support for space experiments or missions linked to the Belgian scientific research community. In this frame, B.USOC is in charge of ESA experiments on board the International Space Station, including activities from the integration of payloads to their in-orbit operation, astronaut training, processing and dissemination of the scientific data obtained. B.USOC is supported by the Belgian Science Policy and will be part of the future Belgian Interfederal Space Agency.