October 20, 2014

Student Project

CNES and IRAP, involved in MSL mission, decided to ask industrial BTS students to realize a mockup of the rover Curiosity at scale 1 to highlight space activities and the scientific and technique culture.

This mockup was shown at the salon du Bourget in June 2009 then at the Cité de l'Espace in Toulouse and then at other sites function of scientific or technique events that ask for it.

This mockup's dimensions are impressive:

  • width 2.7 m
  • length 3 m
  • heigh 2.2 m
  • mass 700 kg.
 Digital model of the mockup
Digital model of the mockup

The general plans as well as the different sub-systems plans of the Rover have been realised from pictures and photographs supplied by CNES.
The kick off of the realisation took place in September 2007 and the mockup was delivered in June 2009.

Elements of the specifications

The mockup fulfill a number of functionalities to be an efficient tool and communication medium. Thus it had to:

  • structurally represents the Curiosity rover at scale 1,
  • shows the body, the power system (RTG), the antennas as well as possible regarding the shapes and dimensions,
  • easily be dismantable to facilitate its transport,
  • have a mass as low as possible.

Some functions of the rover were developed, in a simplified way, to demonstrate its capabilities.
The functions are:

  • the ROVER mobility on a flat surface and over a few tens of meters in total autonomy,
  • an articulate robotic arm,
  • an articulate mast capable to receive a mockup of CHEMCAM instrument (mass about 6 Kg),
  • a simulation of CHEMCAM instrument functioning by laser pointer)
  • two navigation cameras,
  • the processing of the cameras' images to select a target,
  • the ROVER driving towards a target,
  • the pointing of a target with designation of the target by a laser pointer directed by WIFI.

Project control

A control committee was constituted of people belonging to CNES, IRAP, Toulouse academy and the different schools involved. It defined the roles and responsibilities of each school and enthrusted the planning and coordination to the academy inspector in sciences and industrial techniques.
The repartition between the schools was as follow:

Running gear designLycée Pierre-Paul Riquet
Lycée Jean Dupuy
July 2008
Stabilisation system and antenna designLycée Gaston MonnervilleCahorsJuly 2008
Mobile arm design and realisationLycée BourdelleMontaubanJuly 2008
Mast - laser - vision design and realisationLycée Victor Duruy
Institut Limayrac
Bagnères de Bigorre
July 2008
Energy management module design and realisationLycée Gaston MonnervilleCahors2008/2009
Body design and realisationLycée PolyvalentDecazeville2008/2009
Transport modules design and realisationLycée PolyvalentDecazeville2009
The running gear, the stabilisation system and the antenna will be realised in 2008/2009 with the help of different Bac Professionnels.
The lycée Victor Duruy is in charge of the final assembly of the Rover as well as the functioning tests.
Digital model of one of the two running gears Digital model of one of the two running gears
Running gear design
Digital model of the stabilisation system  Digital model of the antenna
Stabilisation system and antenna design
Mobile arm under realisation  Mobile arm finished
Mobile arm design and realisation
ChemCam instrument on the mast   ChemCam instrument on the mast   ChemCam instrument on the mast
Mast - laser - vision design and realisation
Drawing of the body  Body under realisation
Body design and realisation
Remote control interface of the Rover  Remote control interface of the Rover
Remote control interface of the Rover
Power supply of the Rover
Energy management module design and realisation

An original appraoch

The realisation in a network of schools of such a complex system is a first. To succeed in such a big project, an major coordination had to be implemented with, notably, the validation by all the partners of common specifications.
Thus, a digital skeleton, derived from the images of Curiosity and distributed to the different institutions has enabled to support and to communicate digitally about common dimensions and geometry.

Digital skeleton of the Rover
Digital skeleton of the Rover

Collaborations between institutions and formation series which didn't knew each other until then have been initiated with:

  • BTS CPI (Conception de Produits Industriels) and MAI (Mécanique et Automatismes Industriels) for the definition, the design, the realisation of the running gear motorisation,
  • BTS MAI and IRIS (Informatique et Réseaux pour l'Industrie et les Services techniques) for the design and the realisation of the WIFI driving interface for the mast,
  • BTS Electrotechnique and MAI for the definition and the energetic dimensionings.

CNES provided a specialist in the management of space projects to help the different teams of the schools with the planification and the project monitoring, thus enabling an appreciated knowledge transfer.

Technical innovation

The innovation is also technique with the conception and the realisation of the differents sub-systems of an exploration vehicule of nearly 700 kg entirely managed autonomously in regards to its power supply as well as its wireless driving by WIFI.


This project realised by students, leaned on existing but very new technologies. It was totally lead in partnership with CNES ("the client") and IRAP (Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie) which were presents, notably, during the project management, for the communication surounding this realisation and evidently for the financing of the mockup.

This project enabled to make known:

  • to industrials the space research projects that take place in France and thus open potentials for industrial realisations.
  • to the general public the French contribution in these domains and probably to create callings among youths.

At the same time, this projet enabled to show that the technological and professional formations available through Education Nationale are adapted and in accordance with the new technologies requirements.


This realisation constituted an ideal study support for the students. It enabled meetings between professors, students, industrial partners, and researchers. All of them lived a very rich technical and human adventure.
It paved the way to other realisations and renewed work methodes.

The press already mention it...

The rover was exposed in June 2009 at Paris Air Show. (in french)

The Mockup trips since 2009

  • June 2009 - Bourget Airshow in Paris
  • September 2009 - Novela in Toulouse
  • September 2009 - "Les Mystères de l'Univers" in Paris
  • June 2010 - Toulouse Space Show
  • August 2010 - "Premières Rencontres Spatiales" in St Maximin
  • October 2010 - "Fête de la Science" in Paris - Guyancourt
  • October 2010 - Salon des Métiers in Toulouse
  • November 2010 - Infosup in Toulouse
  • February 2011 - "Olympiades des Métiers" in Paris
  • February 2011 - Limayrac Institute in Toulouse
  • Mai 2011 - "Ciel en fête" in Toulouse
  • August 2011 - "Deuxièmes Rencontres Spatiales" in St Maximin
  • September 2011 - "Rencontres Spatiales" in Gimont
  • October 2011 - Exposition and Symposium about the Solar System Exploration in Nantes
  • October 2011 - IRAP Inauguration in Toulouse
  • October 2011 - Novela in Toulouse
  • November 2011 - "Des Étoiles et des Ailes" in Blagnac
  • February 2012 - "Explorer Mars" at the "Cité de l'Espace" in Toulouse