On June 4, 2018, the ROCC (Rover Operations Control Centre) prepared and successfully sent the first set of telecommands toward the ExoMars 2020 Rover, in particular toward a Rover prototype known as ATB or Avionic Test Bench, hosted at Turin premises of Thales Alenia Space in Italy, Prime Contractor for the ExoMars 2020 mission.
The ATB can be considered a first Rover simulator, to be used by AIT (Assembly Integration and Test) people to test the electrical and mechanical integration of the equipment that will be hosted on-board the Rover ExoMars 2020. Some units are currently made of hardware prototypes, others are simulated at software level.
The type of test that has been executed is generally known as SVT or System Validation Test. The SVTs are needed to verify the communications and the compatibility between the Flight Segment (in our case the robotic platform) and the Ground Segment (i.e. the ROCC). Such type of integrated verifications are needed to test, in an operationally representative environment, the capability to forward telecommands (TCs) and to receive and decode on Ground the telemetry (TM) data generated on-board by the Rover, to verify Rover status after TCs reception and processing.
Other similar tests, with increasing complexity, will be executed throughout 2018 and 2019, and will be essential to validate all the operational procedures to be executed in Turin, at ALTEC premises, where the Rover Operations Control Center will be hosted, during the whole ExoMars 2020 mission. Such tests will demonstrate the ROCC capabilities to operate successfully the Rover, not only in nominal conditions but also during contingency or malfunctioning situations potentially arising during the mission.
The ExoMars 2020 mission, whose Rover will investigate the presence on Mars of signs of past or present life, is developed in the context of an international cooperation between the European Space Agency, ESA, and the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, for the exploration of the solar system.
Italy, through the Italian Space Agency, is the main supporter of the ExoMars dual mission.
ESA assigned to the Italian industry, and in particular to Thales Alenia Space Italy (Thales 67%, Leonardo 33%), the main leadership of both missions, in addition to the overall system responsibility of all the elements.