October 29, 2015

Finnish-led technology to outer space

The UNISONO project is part of METERON programme led by European Space Agency.
The UNISONO project is part of METERON programme led by European Space Agency.
iStock / svartalv

An international project coordinated by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland supports the future missions to Mars.

The UNISONO project has developed a communication solution that allows an orbiting space station to maintain uninterrupted contact with robots on the surface of a planet.

The solution is an important step in the progress of space initiatives such as the human mission to Mars. In order to build infrastructure to the planet, the orbiting space station needs to be able to control the robots on the surface.

Currently astronauts are practising to control the robots on Earth from the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS is in constant orbit around Earth, which means that the astronauts frequently lose direct contact with the robots. This results in discontinuity in the data and video transmission.

“Losing control of the robot during a critical task can cause damage to the task or the robot itself. The UNISONO project has developed a solution which can keep the astronaut in constant contact with the robot during entire orbit,” explains Dr Ali Muhammad, principal investigator in Robotics Systems at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

The project has shown how the time window available for the astronaut to be in direct contact with the robot can be widen by seamlessly switching between relaying stations on the surface.

The technology has also potential industrial applications as it can be used to design seamless wireless data transmission systems. This could solve the problem of smart phones losing signal while moving or reducing lags in mobile gaming.

The UNISONO project was launched in June 2014. The project was awarded to VTT and Italian company Altec Spa by European Space Agency (ESA) after an international competition.

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