Newsletter August 2021

The field campaign has come to an end far too quickly for our liking!
Nonetheless, we are proud of what we have achieved during the event in Switzerland.

We would now like to share a quick overview and some images of our operations at Mount Pilatus and the Swiss Museum of Transportation.

The Location

We were located at Lucern. Our rover, LARSS has been transported to the top of Mount Pilatus with one of the steepest railways on earth (48%!!).

Our control room was set up at the Swiss Museum of Transport. From there, we were able to control LARSS. We also had a booth for visitors, giving them the possibility to learn more about us.

Despite our hopes for lots of sunshine, we had to deal with much fog. This was not optimal, as we were now forced to reduce our plan of operations to a minimum. Making the best out of the situation, we were able to be fully operational for three days.

Results

On this occasion, we have made a Q&A with our subteam leads. We asked them all the same questions about their team and tasks during the field campaign:

  1. What was your subsystem’s task and how well did it work?
  2. What were your team’s tasks at the FC?
  3. What did you learn from the FC?

Propulsion and Chassis (PC)

  1. PC has 2 main functions for the tests in the FC. During the PL tests, the PC was supposed to position and hold the sintering system in place. This function seems to be properly fulfilled. The second major function is the driving capability of the rover. Tests performed at the FC have shown that the driving capability of the current system does not yet meet our aspirations.
  2. PC was responsible for the mechanical setup and maintenance of our assembly. Additionally, when the weather did not allow for proper PL tests, we did preliminary drive system tests.
  3. The FC showed us some weaknesses in our system. In addition, we were able to identify further potential for improvement in terms of communication, organizational structure, and long-term planning.

Electronic Power System (EPS)

  1. EPS has to provide a power supply and a communication bus to the different parts of the rover. These two main aspects worked as expected on the rover. Due to a problem with one of our own PCBs, we could not have tracking and reporting of the system’s status as we would have liked it. 
  2. We are responsible for powering all other subsystems so that they can do their job. This is done with a central LiFePO4 battery and several DC-DC converters. The different voltage levels are then distributed over the whole rover. The second aspect of our responsibilities is to provide a communication bus to every electrical consumer. This enables the different parts of the rover to talk to each other.

Command and Data Handling (CDH)

  1. The CDH subsystem acts as an interface to the rover system. It was able to receive instructions from the operators in the control room, translate them into internal instructions, and send those to the desired subsystem. Furthermore, it was also able to receive data from said subsystems, which was then transmitted back to the control room. In this manner, the operators are able to observe the behavior of the rover.
  2. CDH is responsible for the rover software. During the field campaign, members of CDH had two main roles, remote and on-site operators. The latter had the task of setting up the rover for remote operation and communicating with the operators in the control room. From the control room, operators had the task of commanding the rover and observing that the data is transmitted.
  3. Testing at the field campaign has delivered promising results. The envisioned behavior of the system was partially achieved. Communication between the rover subsystems, as well as between CDH and the control room worked as intended. Testing at the FC has also unveiled some bugs in the software, as well as new sources of error which were not taken into consideration during the design phase. With this new insight, we have a clear road map on how to move forward with software development, in order to improve the system, as well as increase robustness.

Payload (PL)

  1. We were supposed to sinter hard surfaces from the prepared sand. We successfully sintered small surfaces but were unable to reach set size requirements due to very short sunny periods.
  2. The payload team was responsible for the payload operation and the sintering on the mountain. Looking for good weather, preparing the sintering surface, and monitoring the sintering process.
  3. We learned the importance of meticulous pre-planning for such a field campaign and preparing for unexpected bad weather.

Newsletter Mai 2021

Dear supporters of WARR Exploration,

We are back with a new newsletter to update you on our progress towards the IGLUNA 21 Field Campaign. Due to Corona, we had a hard time manufacturing our rover LARSS as only three people were allowed to enter our WARRkstatt. Despite this, we managed to manufacture the rover before the Readiness Review which is going to take place on the 4th of June. Now, our electrical engineers and programmers are integrating the motors and PCBs, fixing some small last bugs, and testing everything to ensure smooth functioning at the field campaign. Below, you find some images taken during manufacturing.

Insights

Front view of our rover and the payload.

LARSS compared to ESA´s ExoMy.

Top view of LARSS.

Closer look on the wheel profiles developed by our terramechanic expert.

We are looking for new members

To all TUM students passionate about space exploration, we are looking for you. Join our highly motivated and interdisciplinary team to design a future rover. At WARR Exploration, you will gain hands-on experience in designing, developing, and manufacturing a rover to demonstrate space exploration applications. You will start right away with building an ExoMy (a small version of the Mars Rover of ESA and Roskosmos) as part of your introductory phase. For more information, visit our kick-off on April 26th at 6 pm CEST, or simply contact us via E-Mail or our social media channels. Kick-Off: zoom.us/my/warr.exploration (26.04.2021, 18:00 CEST)

Newsletter January 2021

Dear supporters of WARR Exploration,

Hopefully, you all have started the new year well and healthy. For us, the year began with fantastic news: We are pleased to welcome Orbit Recycling as our second industrial partner. Orbit Recycling is a small company, founded and lead by Frank Koch, that tries to clean up our orbit by transporting aluminum to the moon and recycling it there with Fresnel lenses. By following this approach, he expects to save ESA a lot of money and make building lunar habitats more attractive to decision-makers. To melt and sinter aluminum Orbit Recycling is developing a structure with a Fresnel lens, which is very similar to our payload. Due to the ongoing lockdown, our production and testing activities are limited to those that we can do in our homes. In the event that the lockdown continues into the beginning of March, we could experience troubles manufacturing all mechanical components in our WARRkstatt on time. Therefore, we are currently looking for production partners to outsource some production steps and to be able to meet the deadlines set by IGLUNA.

Recent Works

For the past few months, the subteam EPS has been working on a PCB to observe and control the whole operation of the electronic power system. The Covid situation did not make it easier to order and manufacture this monitoring module. Currently, the students of EPS are working on testing the PCB and writing the software for the chosen STM32 microcontroller. The picture on the right side shows the layout of this PCB, which was designed with the suite EAGLE.

Having passed the internal review of the Propulsion and Chassis (PC) and Payload (PL) teams, their students are currently evaluating ways to lower the total mass and to further optimize the mechanical parts. This process includes FEM analyses as well as topology studies. The picture on the left shows a FEM analysis of our suspension.

As part of the Software for IGLUNA, we developed our own Graphical User Interface for controlling the Rover. As of yet, this consists of data visualization, steering the Rover as a whole and controlling individual motors. With a focus on customizability and comprehensive feedback, this tool will allow us to closely observe the Rover during Operations.

Newsletter December 2020

Dear supporters of WARR Exploration,

During such difficult times good news is rare, but fortunately we have some: We passed the delta PDR for IGLUNA 2021 and are now on track to convince our reviewers once more at the CDR, which will take place virtually on February 19th. Unfortunately, our workshop had to be closed completely from December 8th onwards; it is not clear when we are allowed to work there again. But we hope that the lockdown will end on January 10th.

Nevertheless, we wish you and your family Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Stay healthy,

Your WARR Exploration team

Despite the tough social distancing restrictions on working in our workshop, we managed to finish our prototype. Furthermore, we published our new promotional video, which you can watch on YouTube.

Propulsion and Chassis (PC) is currently developing a new iteration of its system. Based on the existing prototype, new functions will be added and old ones will be improved. One such feature will be a torque motor to actuate the steering movement. Its short axial length will allow us to drastically lower the rover’s center of mass.

Structural parts of the new rover will be manufactured using more sophisticated methods. FEM analysis and topology optimization will assist us in optimizing the geometry of the parts and reducing the weight of the rover. We will also integrate the electronics housing into the suspension design, which will reduce weight, size, and the risk of collisions with other parts of the kinematic system.

Newsletter November 2020

We hope that you are all healthy and not too bad affected by the “Lockdown light”. Due to this lockdown, only two members of WARR Exploration are allowed at the same time in our workshop. Fortunately, we had finished most of the manufacturing by the time the lockdown started. Currently, only the electronic and the payload team need to manufacture parts, so we are still confident about meeting our deadlines and have a competitive rover for the IGLUNA field campaign.

Recent Works

We are proud to announce that we have completed the first iteration of our student documentation for IGLUNA. The student documentation is a comprehensive report that describes all aspects of our project, from the technical description of the rover itself to all project management issues. We look forward to the defense presentation (the Preliminary Design Review) associated with the documentation, which we will deliver this Tuesday in front of experts from the Swiss Space Center.

Approaching the main design phase of the IGLUNA project, the Payload team and Propulsion and Chassis team have been working closely together to find out how to integrate the sintering apparatus onto the rover. This design allows the printing axes to be independent of the movement of the solar tracking axes. Therefore, the solar tracking system can function automatically while the printing is controlled by the user using G-Code. With these insights, the payload team can begin their detailed mechanical design.

In the meantime, Payload is also experimenting with different mixtures of sand to use for demonstrating the functionality of our rover. Here you can see the latest one, which consists of 90% quartz sand and 10% soda. Currently, the main difficulty is finding a sunny day for testing, as we are reliant on strong sunshine for sintering.