The Phileas Experience …

Apr 21, 2011 by     No Comments    Posted under: PolAres, PolAres Rover "Phileas"

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PHILEAS is an educational robotic rover system designed by the teams of the Austrian Space Forum, in cooperation with the HTL (a technical college)  in Kapfenberg with the purpose to assist future manned Mars exploration missions. Tests will be made on Earth on Mars analogue sites.

The Rover Phileas

(c) ÖWF (Daniela Scheer) Our Rover Phileas, which is on site in Rio Tinto

Eventually, PHILEAS shoud be able to operate autonomously, or in cooperation with an analogue astronaut under 80-80-80 conditions :

- 80° below zero temperature in arctic environment,
- 80 days of functionning without interruption,
- 80 km endurance and operating exploration range.

The Rio Tinto experiments

During the Rio Tinto Mars simulation expedition, PHILEAS will perform a number of experiments to test the mechanical parts, the drive motors and the suspension over a variety of grounds from flat to sandy or rocky. There will be experiments with a Robocam steerable camera and a 360° hyperbolic panoramic camera. PHILEAS will perform measurements with a compact environment sensor and with a spectrometer. There will also be tests to assess its capability to obey visual marschalling orders using a gesture recognition Kinect system, and its abitity to track an astronaut on a “follow-me” mode.


The experience of working with a robot

But above all, PHILEAS is an experience in organisation, a test of the communication systems using the OBHD (On Board Data Handling) System and a learning process for protocols between the Rover Console Operator (ROVER) located at the Mission Control Center and the various actors on site at Rio Tinto ( Rover Crew, Suit Tester, Safety Officer, under the control of the Flight Director and with the assistance of the Capsule Communicator.

The main objective in the PHILEAS mission is to test the information flow between “Mars” and the Earth. The tests of the rover involve many tasks, such as traverse planning, taking pictures, recording measurements, transporting payload, ensuring regular maintenance, repairing broken parts, recharging the batteries and taking notes of whatever happens to document the operations.

The Rover Console Operator (ROVER) has overall responsibility at MCC for the operation and readiness of the PolAres Rover(s) used on-site. That includes traverse planning, scheduling rover tasks (e.g. sampling, remote sensing, measurements, taking pictures), ensuring regular maintenance and recharging of the batteries. He is the primary point of contact in case of technical problems with the rover(s).



During real-time operations, the Rover acts as the coordinator with the Crew on how to operate the rover. He advises the Crew whenever repairs are needed in the field. Rover organizes MCC support in case spare parts and tools are needed for rover repairs (this includes contact with local shops near the Rio Tinto field site).


The Rover coordinates with the on-site team SAFETY with respect to rover status. SAFETY and Rover discuss and plan all necessary repair activities on site with respect to safety issues.


The Rover coordinates with FD for official rover status announcements and rover “health” discussions. Rover coordinates with FD for approval of all rover activity decisions and commitments with respect to technical matters. Rover notifies the FD if the PI should communicate with the crew for rover experiment related issues.

Rover gives FD the necessary input for daily schedule planning changes as dictated by crew interaction with the rover.


The Rover interfaces with Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) for the coordination of crew and rover activities and for making recommendations to the crew on how to operate and repair the rover(s).

Principal Investigator

The Rover coordinates with the Principal Investigators for approval of all hazardous operations decisions and commitments with respect to the rover payload issues. The Rover and PI notify each other of rover and payload problems affecting rover and crew capabilities and coordinate the impact of system anomalies on planned payload operations.

Daily tasks

- Ensuring correct Charging/Decharging cycles of Phileas Powerpacks

- Logging rover data from the field in the MCC

- Giving input about rover activities for flight plan generation

- Maintaining the technical documentation of the rover

- Planning repair activities

- Documenting all rover activities and any problems that arise on

The scope of this document is to describe the tasks to be performed with PHILEAS and DIGNITY at Rio Tinto in conjunction with the “Mars” Rover Crew, the SUIT and the MCC. The tasks shall be done to explore the capabilities of the rovers PHILEAS and DIGNITY, i.e. wifi range, video range, terrain manoeuvrability, as well as what can be measured during the execution of the tasks.

The other objectives, for PHILEAS, are basic tests of drive motors, mechanical supension, panoramic and hyperbolic cameras, gesture recognition, environment sensor and spectrometer.


A mission requirements document couldn’t be shorter.

The PolAres Rover „Phileas“ shall:

Function in desert and arctic environment until –80°C (high robustness),
Function 80 days without interruption and be able to cover a distance up to 80 km (long durability & range of exploration) and be usable in regions up to the 80° latitude (north / south) (high versatility).

Those three requirement profiles demand a sophisticated thermal management, solid components with long endurance and a highly efficient energy system.

Mission profile

The primary mission profile is the transfer, application and utilisation of scientific payloads, both during single robotic missions and in cooperation with analogue astronauts as human component.

Video bei YouTube ansehen / Watch video on youtube

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