Airbus Develops Autonomous Control Systems for the Mars Sample Fetch Rover Using Model-Based Design

Fast development is key in this project. Airbus has been developing algorithms in MATLAB that serve as the basis for automatically generating the flight software, as well as all the documentation that is needed.

Key Outcomes

  • Design, verification, and testing of autonomous control software accelerated
  • Human errors in implementation reduced via code generation
  • Machine learning–based visual detection algorithms developed to locate samples

Airbus Defence and Space is developing the Mars Sample Fetch Rover, which will autonomously retrieve samples collected by NASA’s Perseverance Rover from the Red Planet’s surface.

Due to strict time constraints imposed by tight launch windows, which are themselves determined by Earth’s orbit in relation to that of Mars, Airbus engineers face immovable deadlines both for the initial launch of the Mars Sample Fetch Rover and the completion of its mission on schedule. The team has therefore prioritized rapid development to meet the initial launch deadline, and they are designing highly autonomous systems that will enable the rover to complete its mission by meeting the launch window for returning the collected samples to Earth.

The Airbus engineering team responsible for the robotic arm used to pick up the samples is using Model-Based Design with MATLAB® and Simulink® to accelerate the development of computer vision and control algorithms that will be used to identify, grasp, and stow samples autonomously. The engineers design, simulate, and verify the algorithms in Simulink, before using Embedded Coder® to generate C code for target hardware.