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UK students go off-road in Mars Rover Challenge at RAL Space

5th august 2019 - More than 60 engineering students from across the UK competed in the final stage of the third Olympus Rover Competition at STFC’s RAL Space in Oxfordshire on Sunday 28th July.

The six student teams have each designed, constructed and tested a mini-Mars rover over the last nine months, meeting a strict set of engineering and science requirements. Their challenge was based on a possible future robotic mission to collect rock samples from Mars.

Their rovers had to be able to withstand rocky terrain similar to that found on Mars at RAL Space’s robotics trials area and they were also subjected to the stresses and strains of a rocket launch replicated on a vibration table.

Rovers lost wheels in their attempts to scale the rocky terrain of the Mars yard, others lost nuts, bolts and even a whole robotic arm when trying to survive the rigours of the vibration table. The student teams used some innovative design features for their rovers including a fully automated collection system and a wooden structure was tested on the vibration table for the first time.

Team Bath Roving from the University of Bath took first place in the competition with their 4-wheeled design, making use of a servo-operated robotic arm to collect sample canisters from the “Martian surface". The team’s Varun Chhabra said: “Our team has a diverse range of academic backgrounds with a common interest in space. Participating in the competition has brought that interest to life and has given us all a valuable taste of real space missions.”

Professor Chris Mutlow, Director of RAL Space said: “Space is not for the faint hearted. Challenges occur at every stage of the process of getting a mission off the ground and operating somewhere in the solar system. Learning how to deal with this, by coming up with inventive solutions, and having the tenacity to try again is incredibly valuable experience and is something we look for when recruiting scientists and engineers.”

Other awards went to Team Furiosity from Cranfield University for building the most innovative robot and for impressing the industry panel of judges at an early design review. Team Ares from Imperial College London were recognised for building a rover with autonomous capabilities and Team Southampton Spaceflight from the University of Southampton were praised for their rover-related outreach programme to encourage more young people to study science subjects at school.

Other teams who made it through to the final round of the competition came from the Universities of Manchester (Team ManSEDS) and Cranfield (Team The Claw).


The Olympus Rover Competition is organised by UKSEDS, the UK's student space society and its partner, GMV and sponsors, RAL Space, Thales Alenia Space in the UK and FAIR-SPACE Hub. Additional support is provided by Oxford Space Systems and Open Cosmos. Inspired by past and future missions from NASA and the European Space Agency, the competition challenges undergraduate students to solve engineering problems, using industry-standard techniques, tools and processes. More information on the competition can be found at: http://robotics.ukseds.org/

Last updated: 09 August 2019


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