FASTER came to the end



FASTER European research project on robotics, planetray rovers and space exploration shares its final findings in the cooperation of two planetary rovers to find the safets and fastest path to traverse an unknown planetary surface.


November 2014 is the last month of the FP7 FASTER project (“Forward Acquisition of Soil Terrain data for Exploration Rovers”) aimed at the development of novel technology for soil traversability assessment of planetary rovers. The project idea was directly related to the Mars Sample Return mission, planned by the European Space Agency (ESA). It was realised, that the successful acquisition and safe delivery of the samples from this mission should be supported by a novel system capable of estimate the actual soil properties (e.g. hardness) planned as a rover transverse path. The experience from previous Martian rovers missions, like MER (Mars Exploration Rover) Spirit and Opportunity, clearly shows that the unexpected soft sand patches or sand traps can stop the rover mission. Therefore, the fully safe rover path planning is almost impossible without soil properties information and the terrain traversability assessment system for planetary rovers can be critical for the mission.

The FASTER project, funded from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 284419, focused on this important issue by proposing a cooperation between a pair of rovers. The project started in November 2011 for 37 months and was led by a consortium of six partners from around Europe: German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence - DFKI (Bremen, Germany), University of Surrey (Guildford, UK), Airbus Defence and Space (Stevenage, UK), Space Applications Services (Brussels, Belgium), LIQUIFER Systems Group (Vienna, Austria) and Astri Polska sp. z o.o. (Warsaw, Poland).

The project provided the opportunity of using the two rovers: the Primary rover (which is supported directly by the system) and the small, reconnaissance Scout rover, supporting the Primary and carrying part of the system components.

To conclude, the most important achievements of the project are:

  1. Development of a suite of specially-designed devices for soil sensing, placed on-board two rovers.
  2. Subsystem of common data management and analysis and data fusion of various data collected by the system sensors.
  3. Development and design of small Scout rover with very high terrain traverse capabilities.
  4. Demonstration of collaborative and autonomous operation of a pair of rovers for planetary surface exploration missions.

The final system was presented to EU, ESA and NASA officials during the full day Workshop and Final Demonstration event, held on October 23rd, 2014 in the New Mars Yard facility, Airbus DS, Stevenage, UK.


Project Coordinator:  Thomas Vögele, DFKI, Bremen, Germany,

Technical ManagerDr. Chakravarthini Saaj, University of Surrey, UK,

Dissemination Officer: Monika Banaszek-Cymerman, Astri Polska sp. z o.o., Warsaw, Poland, monika.banaszek@astripolska(dot)pl