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The AGH Space Systems team will compete in the finale of the European Rover Challenge 2022

The Kalman rover carrying out a task on the Mars Yard. Brown ground, trees in the background.

Photo: Natalia Deyna, KSAF AGH

The AGH Space Systems team will compete in the finale of the European Rover Challenge 2022

On September 9, 2022, the largest planetary rover competition in Europe will commence – the European Rover Challenge (ERC) 2022. Thanks to the finest technical specifications, the AGH Space Systems team will start as first.

This is yet another competition this year to feature AGH Space Systems with its Kalman rover. In June 2022, the team returned from Utah (USA), where it came 4th in the University Rover Challenge (URC) with the highest score among other teams from Europe.

Since 2014, the European Rover Challenge has been a yearly competition that invites Martian robots from all over the world to compete in Kielce. It belongs to the family of prestigious Rover Challenges, during which the best planetary rover projects in the world are selected. For the needs of the ERC, teams of scientists create advanced Martian tracks made of various types of formation geologically characteristic of the Red Planet. The Mars Yard environment in Kielce has been created with the intention of imitating the surface of Mars and is one of the most challenging terrains of this kind in the world.

This year’s edition of the ERC has seen more than 90 applications from around the world; and teams from the following countries have made it to the final 19: Switzerland, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Bangladesh, Spain, and Poland. In the final selection process, the jury considered the technical specifications and promotional videos submitted by all competing teams.

The ERC competition comprises five missions that mirror the challenges that rovers sent to Mars will inevitably face. These missions include: Navigation Task, Science Task, Maintenance Task, Probing/Collection Task, and Presentation Task. Prizes are awarded in the general classification as well as for particular results in specific categories.

The Navigation Task is a challenge that tests the ability of the rovers to move about in an area full of obstacles. During this mission, they can only rely on the data collected by their own sensors and algorithms. The most recent results of a competition in which AGH Space Systems participated proved that autonomous driving is a strong suit of Kalman, which received the highest scores of all competing projects during this year’s URC in the USA and last year’s ERC in Kielce.

The Science Task involves the preparation and carrying out of the exploration of a Mars Yard fragment chosen by the team. All analyses are based on drone photos provided by the organisers before the start of the competition. They are meant to help create a map and a geological history of a given area, and to make the right hypotheses and provide their justifications.

In turn, during the Maintenance Task, the rover has to perform a multitude of operations on a multifunctional panel. These operations include: voltage measurement in a socket, flipping switches to the right positions, and plugging in ethernet plugins. 

The Probing/Collection Task challenges the rovers to reach designated locations, extract appropriate samples, and weigh them in their on-board labs. Some stages of this challenge require the robots to document their surroundings in photos.

The only mission that takes place outside of the Mars Yard is the Presentation Task, which requires the teams to present their projects in detail, considering the strategies that they have developed. This is an opportunity to obtain valuable pieces of advice from the judges, who have multiannual experience in the space industry.

This year’s European Rover Challenge will take place between 9 and 11 September. The co-organisers of this year’s ERC edition are the European Space Foundation, Kielce University of Technology, and the Marshall Office of the Świętokrzyskie Province.

The ERC 2022 will be accompanied by numerous debates related to space exploration, the possibility of living on Mars, and the commercialisation of space technologies. Additionally, a special science and technology zone will be launched, available to all attendees. Among the many exhibitors, you will find research centres, private companies, and student research circles from around the world.

It is worth mentioning that on the second day (10 September), under the auspices of the Polish Space Agency, the students from the SpaceTeam AGH will present their project of a device for regolith transport. In the future, it can serve as a tool to extract the necessary resources to create the first human settlement on the Moon.

For those who cannot attend the event at the Kielce University of Technology, the organisers prepared an online transmission on their official website