iSpaRo 2024: Space Robotics On The Move

Dr. Vandi Verma, Mars rover operations. (© Hassan Nada/Silicon Luxembourg)

The iSparo 2024 four-day conference, held in Luxembourg from June 24, highlighted imperative and innovative advancements in space robotics, featuring contributions from both industry and academia.

This event provided a comprehensive and extensive platform for discussing the current state and future direction of the space robotics industry. Technological advancements in space, the role of robotics, “in-orbit servicing,” satellite operations, lunar exploration, and the study of Mars and near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), were among the topics discussed at iSpaRo. New ventures in space resource prospection, extraction, and utilization are creating a wave of research and commercial opportunities, with academic institutions world-wide, like the University of Luxembourg bridging the gap and making the connections.

A key objective of iSpaRo was to establish a network of researchers and industry professionals. By bringing together experts from various disciplines, the conference brought future collaborations and drove innovation in space robotics. Among the sponsors and attendees was managing director, Jarosław Jaworski, collaborating and showcasing future advancements and cross-border collaborations of Redwire Space.

The conference featured a diverse lineup of speakers from both industry and academia. 

“This is an emerging topic and community for academia and startups. The involvement of companies, academia, and space agencies, gathering together here, having discussions at different levels of technology readiness levels (TRL). We had top researchers and innovators during this week from all over the world, some from USA, Japan, Korean, Europe, all coming together under one goal, space autonomy.”

Prof. Dr. Miguel Olivares-Mendez is the founder and general chair of iSpaRo and the head of the Space Robotics Research Group at SnT – University of Luxembourg.

Mars rover operations

Dr. Vandi Verma is a principal engineer and the deputy section manager for the mobility and robotics section at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Her work has seen the deployment of robots in extreme environments such as the Arctic, Antarctica, and the Atacama Desert. Her talk dove into the technological advancements and operational strategies that have driven the success of NASA’s Mars rovers, offering insights into current challenges and future mission concepts.

“I hope that attendees saw what it is exactly that we have been doing with the rover on Mars, and were provided some insights into the challenges we are currently facing, for them to go back to their institutions and also research, and come up with solutions,” said Dr. Verma.

Dr. Kazuya Yoshida

Professor Kazuya Yoshida, a distinguished expert in space robotics, serves in the department of aerospace engineering at Tohoku University, Japan. With degrees in mechanical engineering science from Tokyo Institute of Technology and a robust career that includes a tenure as a visiting scientist at MIT, he has been at the forefront of space robotics for nearly four decades. 

“I have been in this industry for more than 30 years. The first half of my lecture was on past business activities, including orbital robotics, and the mission to asteroids. The second half of my talk was about ongoing research, in an effort to foster collaboration amongst our network. We currently have very exciting projects under the Japanese government, called the Moon Shot Program, developing modular robotics,” said Dr. Yoshida.

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