This web page describes the work being performed under "Micro Robots for Scientific Applications 2" activity commissioned by the European Space Agency (ESA). The goal of the activity was to design and develop a Robotic Sampling System - a prototype of a tracked rover based drilling system designed to perform deep (up to 2 meters) sampling on a planetary surface. The name of the Mars rover is MRoSA2, or just 'Miro'.


1. This web page consists of:

2. Second page: a detailed look at the systems

3. Third page: reference material and image gallery


The MRoSA2 rover. Image: SSF
[Click to enlarge the MRoSA2 image]  

Image taken at the Space 2001,
International Space Expo, Helsinki
November 2. - 4., 2001.
Click to view a summary of exhibition

Science behind the system requirements

Past few years the world has witnessed the discovery of so-called extremophiles - life forms thriving in places such as a rock several kilometers underground, or underwater near thermal vents where temperatures exceed +100 degrees Celsius. These are environments previously considered to be so hostile as not to be able to sustain any life forms.

One of the possible implication of this unexpected proliferation and survivability of life, is that some sort of life could have possibly also evolved on Mars or Europa. It is now commonly believed that Mars had once an atmosphere and surface water, and recent discovery of possible fossils in SNC-meteorites suggests that life did evolve on Mars during that wet period. As the extremophiles show, life might even have survived deep underground till the present day.


The search for possible extinct or extant life is the goal of the exobiology investigations to be undertaken during future Mars missions. As has been learned from Viking and Pathfinder missions, sampling of surface soil and rocks can gain only limited scientific information. This is because of chemical processes that alter samples exposed to surface conditions. This is particularly important in exobiology investigations, as oxidising conditions prevailing on the surface would erase any possible organic signatures. The logical next step in Mars exploration is, therefore, acquisition and analysis of pristine, unexposed samples, that can still bear signs of extinct organic activity. In particular, the ESA Exobiology Science Team Studies require from future missions:

  • accessing unperturbed soil samples which have not been polluted by surface activities (e.g., weathering on planets, or meteoroid impacts on small bodies)
  • reaching soil layers which are sufficiently sheltered from surface chemical/thermal/lighting processes (e.g., oxidation, UV-degradation)
  • performing investigation on soil layering.

Two types of samples are requested by scientists: surface samples that were extracted from surface stones/rocks by coring at a depth of a few centimetres, and deep soil samples acquired vertically from a depth of more than 1 meter. Based on the above scientific requirements, the following list of operational requirements has been compiled by ESA:

  • acquire samples by drilling
  • penetrate up to 2 meters into regolith
  • penetrate up to several centimetres into rock
  • penetrate non-homogeneous regolith of unknown hardness
  • allow multiple drilling
  • acquire pristine sample of unknown hardness
  • sample at a certain depth, material of that specific layer
  • allow investigation of several layers
  • preserve morphology of the sample


The project teams and company presentations

In order to develop technology base for achieving operational requirement stated above, the European Space Agency (ESA) has funded the activity "Micro Robots for Scientific Applications 2". Under this activity Space Systems Finland Ltd (SSF, Finland) as prime contractor, together with Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT, Finland) and Helsinki University of Technology (HUT, Finland) designed and developed a Robotic Sampling System (RSS). RSS is based on tethered tracked rover vehicle. The rover itself was to be developed from the Nanokhod concept created under the "Micro Robots for Scientific Applications" activity. However, the concept was changed later to a bit different model to acquire better cross country abilities. The original MRoSA2 project work was done during the period of 1999-2001.

The spheres of responsibilities of contractors (in the original MRoSA2 project) were:

  • SSF:   Prime contractor, software development and systems testing
  • HUT:   Rover development, electronics and hardware, and the sample delivery port
  • VTT:   Drill module and sample acquisition development

During the period of 2002-2003, the MRoSA2 was upgraded to a level which allowed better public demostration of the drilling capabilities. The 'MRoSA2 Upgrade' project was carried out with SSF and HUT, under an ESA purchase contract.


The European Space Agency

Space Systems Finland Ltd (SSF)

Space Systems Finland is one of the Europe's leading Space Applications Software provider. Since its formation, over ten years ago, Space Systems Finland has been providing high reliability software solutions for many of the Europe's most ambitious Space Missions. Space Systems Finland has focused its expertise on providing high mission-critical solutions for demanding environments, such as spacecraft on-board software, spacecraft autonomy, robotics, digital signal processing, data processing facilities, Independent Software Verification and Validation, Software Validation Facilities and Systems Engineering of complex intelligent systems.

Space Systems Finland has specialised on development of high reliability real-time software for demanding applications. The special expertise of the company lies in high reliability real-time software for spaceborne instrument control and spacecraft platform subsystems as well as data processing software for Earth observation applications.

For more information, take a look at:


Space Systems Finland Ltd


Helsinki University of Technology (HUT)/ Automation Technology Laboratory

Research in the laboratory is organized and carried out in four fields of focus (research areas with planned longer term goals). All research is conducted personally by the professor of the laboratory. Practical research work is done in projects by following a matrix organisation. Each field of focus includes usually several on-going projects (planned actions with available funding). The senior researchers act usually as project managers or foremen of their group in addition to their own research work.

The fields of research focus are:

  • Intelligent Mobile Machines and Robots
  • Telepresence Augmented by Virtual Reality
  • Systems Theory and Development of Algorithms
  • Bioprocess Automation

Projects are usually made in co-operation with industry or other research organizations and financed on contract bases. National contracts have been made mainly with TEKES (Technology Development Center of Finland) in applied research and with SA (Academy of Finland) in more basic studies. International contracts have been made mainly with EU programs.

For more information, take a look at:


Helsinki University of Technology


Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) / Automation

VTT Automation develops technology for automation, safety engineering and measurement, and sensors and instruments. The main customers include the automation, process, machine and electronics industries.

VTT Automation serves customer needs by the precise execution of projects, starting from well-prepared tenders and ending with the final introduction of the results. The work carried out is based on strong expertise in many technologies and, where appropriate, is supported by other VTT Research Institutes.

For more information, take a look at:


Technical Research Centre of Finland


Proceed to the next page: a detailed look at the systems. a detailed look at the systems

All rights for texts and materials on these pages are reserved. Do not use or copy without prior written permission of the author.
Last update: December 10th, 2003. (Matti Anttila, MRoSA2U Project Manager, matti.anttila(at symbol)