September 2019 Monthly Update

Off-World Robotics

From the OWR Lead

This month, the OWR team lead(s) have been busy in Poland attending the 2019 European Rover Challenge – helping pave the way for presenting BLUEsat’s rover NUMBAT to competition organisers and meeting with industry professionals during the event. On returning, we have been investigating the use of new technologies for manufacturing, conducting and planning for the design of new rover components, and helping define and outline how the rover project will be managed and run from 2020 and onwards. 

Michael Lloyd, OWR Project Lead

Eight people standing behind a mars rover on red sand
The 2019 ERC Team on the Mars Yard in Poland

OWR Software

The Off-World Robotics software team has spent the last month making final improvements for the competition as well as beginning to refactor code in preparation for the next year of development. These improvements included enhancing the localisation system of the rover and implementing the new version of ROS over CAN to improve the integrity of control signals sent throughout the rover.

Nikola Medimurac, OWR Software Lead

OWR Elec

The OWR electrical team has been assessing the changes that may be implemented in the next edition of the rover. Using the experience collected from the ERC this year, there will be updated specifications on how power and communication will be managed onboard the Rover.

Nancy Hua, OWR Elec Lead

OWR Mech

In conjunction with evaluating the rover’s performance in the ERC competition, the mechanical team has been looking into more efficient designs for all the mechanical subsystems. Major areas for redesigns included the development of a more versatile arm for the rover as well as a new modular design for the rover’s chassis. The steering system which primarily includes the wheels and suspension also has been assessed for a more effective rework.

Rahul Santhosh, OWR Mech Lead


The drone project has made steady progress towards completing a quad-copter prototype that will implement SLAM and image processing techniques. With the frame completed, the drone is ready to attach its electronic components for its first test flight. The project has also begun planning next year’s project following consultation with Dr Jay Katupitya, Dr Johnson Xuesong Shen and Anirban Ghose. Our team has decided to explore other opportunities beyond aerial vehicles, in particular, automated underwater vehicles. 

Lucas Way, Drone Project Lead


September was a very exciting month for the satellite team as we introduced our new satellite mission. Our objective is to launch a CubeSat mounted UV telescope into low earth orbit for six months! The satellite will be transmitting the telescope images back to the BLUEsat Groundstation. We’ve now expanded the satellite project from 3 teams to 5, introducing an on-board computing subsystem development team and a communications subsystem development team, and welcomed a number of new members with the beginning of Term 3.

This term we’re working on a preliminary plan for the mission, to define the scope, technical specifications and an estimation of the resources we’ll need. This plan will be a roadmap for the rest of the mission, ensuring that it is successful.

Olivia Yem, Satellite Project Lead

Two teammates testing a printed circuit board
Testing a Voltage Regulating Board


The Groundstation team continues to work on the development of a communications module for the Balloon team. This has involved planning of the radio and data architectures, an assessment of the AX.25 protocol, and a variety of software prototyping to integrate together and improve on various radio functionalities. Steady progress is also being made on refining the systems integration of the flight simulation module with the user interface.

Victor Tse, Groundstation Project Lead

High Altitude Balloon

Concept drawing of balloon structure has been completed. Prototyping and refining of the structure is required. Work has begun on the sensor modules such as GPS (longitude, latitude, altitude), temperature and humidity. Integration with HamShield has begun and testing will be required to evaluate the performance of HamShield. Further progress into flight simulation/planning has been made – currently it can predict potential flight trajectories. However, bugs have been found, as subsequent runs for Monte Carlo do not work. There is a functional UI, however it can be improved upon. The next steps for the team are to fix the bugs preventing additional trajectories from being generated and trying to integrate mid-flight updates from balloon, as well as integrating software with the mid-flight updates.

Jackson Cai, Balloon Team Member

Secretary’s Update

At the end of September BLUEsat had a new member onboarding session, where we held 3 workshops – a mechanical workshop where two teams build small rovers out of cardboard and elastic bands, an electrical workshop where students learnt how to solder a PCB with a proximity sensor, and a software workshop to write code an Arduino and make a joystick work. Here is a video from the day:

Last Saturday, BLUEsat grew; with new members listening to our onboarding presentation, networking with older team…

Posted by BLUEsat UNSW on Monday, 30 September 2019

Starting from next year, our Off-World Robotics project is becoming a 6 UoC course that spans over a year, under the ChallENG Vertically Integrated Projects program at UNSW. The program is open to undergraduate engineering or computer science students who have completed 42 UoC as well as Engineering Masters students (although the latter must seek permission from their engineering school to join) and, if approved, it could also potentially be used as a Thesis topic. If you’re interested in joining or would like to read more, there is more information and the application link available here.

Anita Smirnov, Secretary

Author: Anita Smirnov

Anita Smirnov is a third year Mechatronic Engineering student with an interest in combining her passions for robotics and art. Before her role as Secretary and Media and Events Coordinator of the society, Anita was and still is involved in the software team of BLUEsat's Off-World Robotics Division, as well as helping manage BLUEsat's social media.

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