MARS (Mechatronic Attitude & Rotations Simulator)
An Italian aerospace research and production company developed an experimental 3-axis lightweight platform, which purpose is to perform optical & Radio Frequency payload quick attitude &/or pointing acquisition. The solution herein proposed is a light and compact robotic system, conceived as an open architecture and designed to be easily integrated with the end user payload software.
MARS, the proposed 3-axis lightweight platform, constitutes the first step toward a fully multipurpose robotic platform: the non-space technology/market opportunity envisioned shall include virtually any area which requires either airborne/ground camera stabilization applications, stabilized antennas (even in rough environments) or the need to control with high accuracy the attitude of any payload on ground/sea/air using a compact and easy to move platform. Upon its release, the payload can be tilted around three perpendicular axes. This motion is performed by three geared rotary actuators linked to three independent nested platforms. The Harmonic Drive coupled to each actuator protects the payload from shock. The payload is mounted on the innermost platform while the external and middle ones can accommodate electric ancillary equipment. One of the key technology developments is the performance in angular range: while most platforms in Europe have limited angular range per axis, the MARS middle and innermost platform is able to achieve +/- 90 deg and +/- 45 deg per axis, even if limitation may occur to allow the routing and flexibility of payload(s) supply lines. MARS was built leveraging the Italian company background and experience within an ESA project whose aim was to build a new, smart and powerful robotic platform, designed to easily host any kind of electronic equipment. The small, light and relatively inexpensive robotic platform achieved is incredibly appealing to both start-ups undertaking new challenges but struggling with low budget and to established enterprises exploring new endeavours.
Innovations & Advantages
MARS space technology and heritage, if applied to ground applications, will provide several advantages for the non-space sector. MARS, actually, can be regarded as a light and compact robotic system, capable of high torque to handle heavy payloads and equipped with optional AHRS for payload stabilization. The 3 MARS actuators can be easily controlled in position and velocity by any microcontroller or external laptop via a serial interface. An open architecture system enables customizable hardware & software configuration and allows for future system upgrades and integration with other systems. Furthermore, a reliable robotic platform is usually very expensive; in order to dramatically reduce the costs, MARS is completely configurable to fit different customer needs and budgets.
Current and Potential Domains of Application
The European Space Agency successfully exploited M.A.R.S to test SATURN, a revolutionary S-Band satellite antenna. However MARS possibilities go far beyond these ones and embrace virtually infinite solutions, from optical device (laser/camera) precise pointing to tactical grade AHRS/INS payload stabilization.