Artist's impression of ExoMars rover arrival at the Red Planet

What applications and missions does Mechatronics and Optics enable?

Regarding robotics, work in this domain contributes to the European Robot Arm (ERA), set to be flown to the International Space Station in 2011 to perform remote inspection tasks. They also contribute to missions such as the ExoMars with its rover scheduled to touch down on Mars in the middle of the next decade, in terms of mission payload as well as the robotic platform. It will also contribute to the Mars missions envisaged in 2016, 2018, 2020 in the frame of the joint ESA – NASA venture which is presently being elaborated, and of course to Moon missions for remotely operated vehicles.

In terms of physical sciences, activities addressing in-situ resource (ISRU) contribute to ease future on-site Moon / Mars missions. Regarding life sciences, setting up remote medical investigations will ensure safety of astronauts, while they also have direct terrestrial application (tele-medicine and surgery). In terms of life support, the closed loop regenerative is mandatory for a stay on Mars, and will see its 1st validation during moon settlement, while the developed technologies also find direct terrestrial applications (and some are in daily use at the international Concordia station in Antartica).

The domain also includes all optical science and Earth observation instruments, such as those being designed for the multispectral Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 missions, for Proba-V, and laser technology linking together the trio of LISA spacecraft intended to detect gravitational waves. Laser communications terminals combined to active optics are opening new frontiers to capacity throughput for space to ground communication. Photonic technology in general is starting a revolution in the architecture of the spacecraft in terms of data transfer, frequency conversion, processing, beam forming, and wrt secure communications (quantum entanglement).

Last update: 29 September 2009

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