The design, manufacture and optimisation of rovers for an analogue sample return mission to Mars for the UKSEDS Olympus Rover Trials
Group Members
Richard Abrams, James Brown, Ivalin Chobanov, Mike Godfrey, Lian Ming Goh, Ethan Goldsmith Lister, Duncan Hamill, Saxon Williams Harries, Hazel Mitchell, Francesco Pignone, Yaseen Reza
“The Olympus Rover Trials (ORT) challenge student teams to design, construct and operate a rover for an analogue sample return mission to Mars. Students create a rover concept, trade off performance parameters and pass through a rigorous review process with panels of engineers from the space sector.” ~UKSEDS Southampton University Spaceflight Society (SUSF) have competed in the ORT twice so far, producing two rovers: Heracles 2019 and Phobos 2020. The 2019 competition involved scaling simulated Martian terrain, collecting sample canisters and enduring the same vibration testing experienced by real satellites. We claimed 4th Place and the Best Outreach award, the highest of any non-returning team. This year, we designed and prototyped an improved rover, with a carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) chassis and sturdier gimbal and arm assemblies. Unfortunately, the competition was moved online after university facilities closed but we successfully completed a functioning prototype with a wooden chassis and continue working towards the new “Mission Planning” requirements. Both rovers feature rocking legs and a gimballing system - allowing excellent manoeuvrability on tough terrain. We are currently developing the software to use cameras and AI to detect the rover’s surroundings and autonomously return the rover to a starting location.
Photograph of Phobos 2020 physical prototype


Rover exploring rough terrain


Demonstration of rough terrain traversing capabilities


Demonstration of wheel gimballing system


3D-printed locomotion and arm subsystem


Internal view of the rover chassis, showing electronics



CAD rendering of rover arm assembly
Exploded view of rover arm assembly
Exploded view of rover wheel assembly
Rendered side view of Phobos 2020
Rendered front view of Phobos 2020
CAD rendering of rover wheel assembly


Heracles 2019 entry


Heracles 2019 during competition