Romania to build a robotic arm that will be used to take rock samples from Mars

Credit image: NASA
Credit image: NASA

Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 03  August 2022, at 08:48 am Los Angeles time

Romanian specialists will contribute to one of the most sophisticated and advanced space robots - a robotic arm that will be used to take rock and dust samples and send them to Earth.

"The Romanian team will develop three sets of electronic ground support equipment (EGSE - Electronic Ground Support Equipment). Two of them will be used in Italy at the Leonardo headquarters and one will be delivered directly to NASA JPL, in the USA, for the last checks before launch," informs a press release from the Romanian Space Agency (ASR) sent to Agerpres. 

Within the mission, the European robotic arm - Sample Transfer Arm (STA) - will play an essential role. It will be launched to Mars in the second half of this decade and will land near the location of the American rover Perseverance, which is currently collecting samples from the planet Mars. Capable of "seeing", "feeling" and making autonomous decisions, the Sample Transfer Arm will identify, pick up and transfer the tubes containing these samples into a container that will be launched into the orbit of the planet Mars by a launcher called Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV). Further, the container will be taken over by a module developed entirely in Europe and brought back to Earth.

GMV Romania also contributes to the Perception Unit whose development is coordinated by GMV Spain - an electronic unit that plays an important role in the handling of the robotic arm. Inside this unit are cameras that provide information to the arm's algorithms so that it can recognize and safely pick up the samples.

GMV Romania contributes to the mechanical and structural design activities for the Perception Unit, carried out by a group of sub-contractors from several countries. The team from Romania also offers support to colleagues from Spain for the development of algorithms that help the arm to "see" its surroundings.

"The contribution of the Romanian industry and research environment in this pioneering NASA-ESA mission is the concrete result of ROSA's efforts to promote the development in the country of relevant capabilities for planetary exploration missions. We supported Romania's participation in the European Space Agency's optional program robotic and manned exploration precisely to give Romania specialists the chance to participate in ESA projects in this field, to increase their degree of technological maturity, and to have an exchange of knowledge between Romanian and European specialists and even the United States of America," said Dr. Marius-Ioan Piso, President of the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA).

As a result, as part of the Mars Sample Return mission, equipment fully developed in Romania will fly to Mars, playing an important role for the smooth running of the mission.

The European industrial consortium involved in the construction of the arm brings together companies from Spain, France, Romania, Denmark, Greece, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, under the leadership of the Leonardo company. They will design, manufacture, integrate and test the robotic arm.  

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