Catapult hosts Mars Rover trials mission operations from Harwell

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The Satellite Applications Catapult is hosting the mission operations for a three-week trial of the Mars Rover in the Utah Desert.

MURFI (Mars Utah Rover Field Investigation) is led by the UK Space Agency in collaboration the Canadian, American and German space agencies. A further 12 academic organisations are part of the team which aims to gain UK-based experience in implementing field trials to support future planetary exploration, train UK scientists and engineers in mission operations and field trials, establish a UK-based Rover Operations Centre, and develop partnerships with other agencies.

The mission involves deploying a robot platform with a variety of sensors for science and technical characterisation, including ExoMars-like and future mission instrumentation.

Stuart Martin, CEO of the Satellite Applications Catapult, said: “The MURFI team’s decision to base their Rover Operations Centre here, at the Harwell Innovation Campus is testament to the world-class facilities the we provide. This follows the pioneering Mars Rover trial that the European Space Agency conducted in October 2013 in Chile’s Atacama Desert, when they used our operations centre for mission operations.”

Mission Commander, Mike Curtis-Rouse, from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), said: “We selected the Catapult’s operations centre for the MURFI trials because of its unique facility. The entire infrastructure provides us with the tools and capabilities to be able to carry out an in-depth trial, while rigorously testing the collaborative elements of the mission.”

The mission team includes 21 experts from Birkbeck College, Imperial College London, STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Mullard Space Science Laboratory (at University College London), The Open University, University of Aberystwyth, University of Cambridge, University of Leicester, University of London, University of Oxford, and University of St Andrews.