This week saw the British Prime Minister Theresa May shown around the ESA ExoMars Rover by astronaut Tim Peake at the Farnborough Airshow. It was particularly exciting for the team here at Ogle as we had a role in the build process of the Mars Rover that will be sent into space in July 2020. As the launch date gets closer, excitement in the aerospace community has been building, and the Prime Minister was given a detailed explanation as to the objectives of the rover and its mission.
The Mars Rover, developed and created by Astrium and Airbus, is the second part in a two-step programme known as ExoMars; aimed at exploring the possibility of there being life on the Red Planet. The first part has already seen a satellite sent to Mars in order to investigate trace gases in the atmosphere. The second phase of the project is to use the robotic rover to follow up studies by drilling below the surface of Mars to detect any organisms present. With the Mars Rover on display at the Farnborough Airshow, the Prime Minister was able to examine it with a helping hand from Tim Peake, who knows a thing or two about space having spent over 150 days up there, orbiting the earth approximately 3,000 times.
Having been approached by Airbus, we were asked to create a full-size body and solar array which would be used to mount on the rover’s chassis. The aim of the prototype was for the designer team to see how the rover would handle the terrain found on Mars. After completion, the prototype was then fully operational and able to be driven both via remote control and autonomously. The prototype was required to be a drivable test vehicle; with the weight of the body and solar panels carefully managed due to the fact the chassis was designed to operate and move with a certain amount of weight on board.
While the team here at Ogle used a variety of CNC and SLS on this fascinating project, the bulk of the work was done using traditional bench model making skills to ensure each precise component functioned fully and was fitted within the specific design and weight restrictions required – a key part of the design process. And because we’re home to such a wide array of technologies, we were able to react appropriately with any last-minute adjustments before sending each part to SLS or CNC.
We’ll certainly be watching closely as the Mars Rover prepares to its incredible journey to the Red Planet in a couple of years.
For more information about our work on this project, take a look at our Mars Rover prototype case study.