Forward Acquisition of Soil and Terrain for Exploration Rover

November 2011 – November 2014
European Union – 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (EU-FP7), in the frame of Space

FASTER – the Forward Acquisition of Soil and Terrain for Exploration Rover describes an alternative method of collecting surface information of an unknown terrain during planetary exploration missions. In most cases, robotic rovers venture into vast and varied terrain with limited precursory trafficability-knowledge of the terrain. Based on relatively sparse remote sensing data, the estimates are sometimes inaccurate and the rover may find itself stuck in a stretch of soft sand or other unforeseen obstacles. This happened to the otherwise successful NASA Mars rover, Spirit. To avoid such accidents, planetary exploration rovers today move very carefully, covering not more than a few meters per day.

To increase travel velocities, an in situ physical examination of the planetary surface is necessary. In the project FASTER, partners develop and demonstrate concepts for an efficient in situ acquisition of soil, and survey of terrain properties on planetary surfaces. The new FASTER system combines a light-weight portable soil sensor with a small all-terrain scout rover which can quickly and more efficiently test the trafficability of terrain, enabling higher travel velocities and reducing the risk for the mother rover.

Consortium partners  DFKI Robotics Innovation Center (RIC) – Germany / University of Surrey – United Kingdom / Astrium – France / Space Applications Services – Belgium / LIQUIFER Systems Group – Austria / Astri Polska – Poland

LIQUIFER team   Barbara Imhof, Waltraut Hoheneder, Valentin Eder, Stephen Ransom, René Waclavicek, Damjan Minovsky, Lutz Richter

Image credit: FASTER Consortium, visualization: LIQUIFER Systems Group 2014, background image courtesy of NASA