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Using Rosalind Franklin rover drill telemetry to gain scientific insight on the mechanical properties of the Martian subsurface

Presentation #104.05 in the session Mission-supporting Practices, Modeling, and Data (Oral Presentation)

Published onOct 23, 2023
Using Rosalind Franklin rover drill telemetry to gain scientific insight on the mechanical properties of the Martian subsurface

The Rosalind Franklin rover, set to be launched in 2028, will explore the Martian surface and subsurface in Oxia Planum to search for signs of life. It is the first Mars rover equipped with a drill system capable of drilling down to a depth of 2 m. It will collect core samples of astrobiological interest at different depths in the 0-2m range and deliver them to a suite of analytical instruments. The drill system also hosts Ma_MISS, a miniaturized spectrometer for investigating subsurface mineralogy and stratigraphy [1].

Characterization of the subsurface is crucial for properly understanding the sample environment, and can be complemented and augmented with information about the mechanical properties of the soil and subsurface rocks. While there is no instrument specifically dedicated to measuring the mechanical properties of the subsurface rocks/materials on board the rover, the drill system itself grants an outstanding opportunity to gain important insights on the mechanical behavior of the rocks it bores through [2,3]. Indeed, during its operation, the drill provides a wealth of information in the form of engineering telemetry data. Drill telemetry includes data such as readings from torque and force sensors, position resolvers and motor currents and speed.

To extract useful information from drill telemetry at Mars, suitable analysis techniques need to be developed and validated before the launch. To accomplish this goal, we are using telemetry data from drilling tests performed with the rover GTM (Ground Test Model). The GTM is hosted in the MTS (Mars Terrain Simulator) in ALTEC Turin premises. Drilling tests are performed with the GTM on the MTS’ Drilling Facility: a raised platform with a Drilling Well that can be filled with different rocks and sand to simulate a varied stratigraphy. Using data from these tests, we can develop, optimize and validate data analysis techniques tailored for this specific drill system, trying to extract as much useful information as possible.

We are currently focusing on the analysis of data from drilling test held in February 2023, and will present the first results of this analysis and the techniques used. We computed characteristic parameters such as the mechanical power and specific energy spent during drilling operations, which allow the differentiation of the various layers with different properties.

[1] M. C. De Sanctis et al., Planetary Science Journal, vol. 3, n. 6, 2022.

[2] F. Altieri et al., Advances in Space Research, 2023.

[3] A. Frigeri et al, abstract #1462 in LPSC 52, 2021.

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