Thales Alenia Space technologies on the IRISS mission
The IRISS mission, devoted to the testing of new technologies and improvements to operations in space has come to a successful conclusion. Created, planned and conducted by ESA (the European Space Agency), the mission saw a massive contribution from Thales Alenia Space. The Thales Alenia Space team in Turin was responsible for the entire planning, development and testing phases and the engineering support provided. The team planned, developed, tested and delivered a control system able to manage the multiple robotic elements at the brand new ROvers eXploration facility, in less than a year.
The lightening mission (lasting a total of ten days) concentrated on verifying new technologies and ways to manage complex space missions. In particular, Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen carried out a large number of tests in orbit: he filtered the ISS's waste water through a “biomimetic” membrane, created using nanotechnology, that imitates the cells present on every living being and he wore a tailor-made, close-fitting "SkinSuit" capable of relieving backache. The most interesting and complex tests however regarded the control of “earthbound” robots from space.
The Interact experiment, for example, tested an innovative control system that confers the sense of touch remotely. Mogensen also simulated a lunar robotic mission, by moving a robot at the same time as another instrument managed from earth and successfully completing a mission-specific challenge. This experiment, as part of Meteron (Multi-Purpose End-To-End Robotic Operation Network) project was made possible by the use of ELIOS (Eurobot fLIght cOntrol Station) Man-Machine Interface, developed by Thales Alenia Space.
The user friendliness of the interface and Andreas's experience were the key to the success of the experiment that, originally planned over two days, was concluded in just 45 minutes. The test, implemented in the sphere of the ISS, paves the way to the validation of remotely-controlled robotic operations for future exploration missions to the moon and to Mars. The IRISS mission was a success that represents just the beginning of a new phase in which human beings will work ever closer contact with robots which will also be used to manage operations remotely in the case of natural disasters to provide safe conditions for humans to operate in.