METERON: OPSCOM-2

Future human space exploration will most likely involve sending robots to explore the planetary surface, in preparation and support of the on-site exploration by humans.

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The Meteron project is exactly preparing for that future. Use of robots will continue even when humans have safely landed for both astronaut support and planetary protection of “special regions” defined by the international treaties as hospitable for elementary life. Controlling the robots, even for short distances, would require a form of reliable internet to send commands and to receive information back. METERON includes collaboration between the ISS space agencies: NASA, ESA, Roscosmos, and DLR developing the technology necessary for this objective by commanding a robot on earth by an astronaut on the ISS. ESA, with BELSPO, assigned the support of the ISS operations within the METERON project to B.USOC. The overall coordination of METERON operations are done from the European Satellite Operations Centre of ESA in Darmstadt, Germany.

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The EUROBOT robot used in the OPSCOM-2 test in ESA-ESTEC (credit of ESA)

In 2012, a first test using an elementary robot located in ESA-ESOC was already successful. The current test, OPSCOM-2, involves a much more sophisticated ESA robot, namely the EUROBOT, which is developed by and located in ESA-ESTEC and has functionalities approaching those of a Martian rover. For the OPSCOM-2 test full two-way communication capabilities are in place. The Disruptive/Delay Tolerant Network (DTN) communication protocol stores commands if a signal is lost and forwards them once communication is returned.

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst performed today the OPSCOM-2 crew activity, where he was commanding and controlling the EUROBOT from the ISS and received images and other data generated by EUROBOT. The test began on August 7 18h35 CET and ended on schedule at 20h05. All objectives were reached.

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The B.USOC operation room during the OPSCOM-2 test.

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The Event on Twitter : https://twitter.com/Busoc_official/status/497352786808668160 .

More info on ESA website and pictures on @ESA_Events :

http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Operations/Gerst_drives_car-sized_rover_from_space

https://www.flickr.com/photos/esa_events/sets/72157646263587681/