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Mars Exploration: METERON (Multi-Purpose End-To-End Robotic Operation Network) Facility Responsible Centre

The overall goal of METERON is to set up a simulation environment to allow ground controllers in a Control Centre or astronauts on ISS to be able to simulate robotic exploration scenarios tele-operating a robot located on the ground through the ISS environment. This project has been assigned to B.USOC by ESA (with the help of BELSPO) in 2012 as a preparation to “planetary” operations at Space Pole METERON has three primary goals relating to the domains of operations, robotics and communications respectively:

  • To act as a test-bed, providing end-to-end in-orbit demonstration of potential future exploration operations scenarios involving robots and humans (Operations).
  • To validate the concept of real-time two-way control of a robot on a planetary surface, from a zero-gravity platform such as a manned orbiter, by human operators assisted by stereo imagers on the rover and by using force sensors to check motion and surface.
  • To perform further in-orbit testing and validation of novel communication techniques, such as Disruption Tolerant Network (DTN) concepts and technologies (Communications).DTN is very important for exploration because it can operate with unexpected losses of signal, it will find applications on earth too for the remote control of instruments at distant places with limited satellite coverage.

Several space agencies and institutions work together to achieve these goals, including ESA, NASA, ROSKOSMOS, ESOC, CU-Boulder and BUSOC. B.USOC tasks and responsibilities vary along the project phases, and focus on operational and ground support of activities conducted on board ISS.