Together with â€œtraditionalâ€œ approach, in the last years a new concept of planetary surface exploration is being introduced and investigated also within the European Space Agency (ESA). The concept is quite simple and consists in spreading around a certain number of sensors communicating among themselves in a wireless networked fashion. Those sensors, all together, basically constitute a distributed instrument with the potentiality of broadening the capability of making science on and around a planetary body.
In effect, with respect to big and monolithic planetary probes whose new payloads could be able to realize high quality local measurements (i.e. imaging, samples) allow mapping larger planetary surfaces and/or volumes over a large time span. This concept resulting particularly suitable to retrieve localized simple measurements such as pressure, temperature, humidity, gas type, etc that could help supporting the major interest of space exploration, named 1) determine if life never arose on a certain celestial body, 2) characterize the geology and topology of the body surface, 3) characterize its climate and 4) to prepare for human exploration.
In line with this tendency ESA has started project RF-WIPE: RF Wireless for Planetary Exploration project together with the consortium lead by GMV with SUPSI and UPM.
In this case multiple web nodes are spread in or over a large area at the scope of forming a kind of virtual payload able to retrieve planetary data used to map the targeted planetary area. Depending on the environment where the network is deployed, the data can be retrieved from either the surface of the planetary body or from its atmosphere:
RF-Wipe project will design and test in simulation environment and both in laboratory and outdoor a virtual payload able to retrieve planetary data used to map the targeted planetary area. This payload will perform weather characterization by measuring linear evolution of meteorological processes.
Network topology will include linear hoping and multi-hooping in a mesh distribution. For the overall instrument special attention is paid to network robustness, power consumption and deployment mechanism of mote sensors.