StarTiger - Dropship

Terrestrial Dropship Demonstrator

The StarTiger: Terrestrial Dropship Demonstrator project is a project in the frame of ESA's StarTiger initiative. The project aims at the terrestrial demonstration of a planetary landing mission in which a rover is deployed on a planetary surface by means of a flying platform inspired by the well-known Skycrane. A multi-copter platform is used as subsitute for the rocket propusion Skycrane and is equipped with optical and inertial navigation, hazard detectiom and avoidance, a flight computer for execution of the autonomus landing sequence and a winch and bridle system for rover deployment. The DFKI is responsible for the mechatronics design, test and integration of the three subsystems winch, rover mockup and rover release.

Duration: 01.10.2013 till 30.06.2014
Donee: German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence GmbH
Sponsor: ESA

Airbus DS,, TU Poznań

Application Field: Space Robotics
SAR- & Security Robotics
Related Robots: CARLTON

Project details

Sequence of the demonstration mission: (1) TakeOff and ascend to 20m. (2) Start of descend and rover lowering. (3) Rover Touchdown. (4) Rover Release. (Source: Airbus DS)
Single frames from an on-board video shot during the lowering of the rover. In the first frame the rover is in up/flight configuration, in the subsequent images, the rover is lowered on its bridle while the Dropter platform descents. The last frame shows the deployed rover. (Source: Tiago Hormigo/
Dropter and rover after successful flight experiment (Source: Florian Cordes, DFKI GmbH)
Test site for the final flight experiments. The terrain is 40m x 40m in size. (Source: Florian Cordes, DFKI GmbH)

The StarTiger: Terrestrial Dropship Demonstrator project is a project in the frame of ESA's StarTiger initiative. The purpose of the project is to provide a 'quantum-leap' in robotic space exploration by applying an innovative, lean and pragmatic management approach which results in a significant reduction of R&D turnaround time while providing a significant advancement in technology.

The project lead is at EADS Astrium Bremen (now: Airbus DS). The DFKI takes part in the project as a subcontractor. Apart from the DFKI, EADS Astrium France, from Portugal and the TU Poznań, Poland are subcontractors. During the project, all engaged researchers are collocated at the Astrium site in Bremen.

The project aims at a terrestrial demonstration of a planetary landing with a system similar to the Skypcrane already successfully employed by NASA to safely land a rover on the surface of Mars. For the Dropship project, a multi-copter platform (the so called Dropter) is developed by TU Poznań. It is equipped with a flight control that takes care of autonomous attitude control and the mission sequence execution. A visual and inertial navigation, including HAD (hazard detection and avoidance) is developed by the project partner

The DFKI is responsible for the mechatronic subsystem development of the lowering mechanism (winch, bridle) the rover mock-up and the rover release mechanism.


StarTiger: Mission

Video of the final flight demonstrations. The flights took place on a test facility in Trauen, Germany. During the tests, the whole mission sequence with manual takeoff, autonomous flight, lowering of the rover on the bridle, ground contact detection and rover release was successfully demonstrated. (Source: ESA/ DFKI/ Spin.Works/ Poznań University of Technology, IAII/ Airbus Defence & Space)

StarTiger: Dropship

Video of the flight experiment for lowering and deploying the rover mock-up. Source: Florian Cordes/ DFKI GmbH, Airbus DS)

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last updated 04.01.2024
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