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Aberystwyth University

Students: 8,000
Staff: 1,800

Contact for R&D Engagement:
Anne Howells

Research Strengths:
– Robotics (Mars rovers)
– Earth observation
– Astronomy and astrophysics

Location: Department of Geography and Earth Sciences,
Penglais Campus, Aberystwyth

Space Research Areas:
– Earth observation
– Environment

Point of Contact:
Professor Richard Lucas


9 academic staff

Facilities & Equipment:
– Dedicated research laboratory with high-performance computers, 100Tb of storage
– Open Source and commercial software for environmental and flood monitoring
– Three in-house open-source software packages developed for processing laser
scanning data (SPDLib), remote sensing and GIS data (RSGISLib), and atmospheric
correction of satellite imagery (ARCSI)
– 2x ASD spectroradiometers
– Terrestrial laser scanner
– Quadcopter UAV for field surveys

Collaboration History:
NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Welsh Government, Geoscience Australia, Wetlands International, and Mangrove Capital Africa

Summary of Unique Capabilities:
Remote sensing data produced from observational satellites is used to understand the impacts of human activities on different ecosystems across the globe. Research staff combine expertise in geography, biology, physics and computer science. Open source software developed by the group is widely used across the research field.

Location: Physical Sciences Building,Penglais Campus, Aberystwyth

Space Research Areas:
– Robotics
– Control and Communication

Point of Contact:
Dr Fred Labrosse


10 permanent staff, circa 10 PhDs

Facilities & Equipment:

Robotics workshop:
– Outdoor robots, aquatic, space, flying, lighter than air, sub-aqua
– Space robots: currently building a full-scale working replica of the ExoMars rover
– The Aberystwyth PanCam emulator

Computational capabilities:
– Bespoke software tools written for robots (most processing done onboard)
– Access to Supercomputing Wales facilities for data analysis (classifying terrains/
topography for autonomous robots and integration with weather forecasts)
– GPU farm on-site (available for use by the whole faculty)

ANTUR (Aberystwyth Natural Terrain for Unconstrained Robotics):
– New facility under development for testing autonomous robots
– Large area of land owned by the university from sea level up to several hundred feet
with wide range of terrain types
– Plans to have Wi-Fi and moisture/temperature sensors, large indoor testing facility and
control/temporary accommodation facilities

Collaboration History:
Internal collaborations with many departments across the university on environmental monitoring and autonomous farming/defence vehicles. Extensive work with university and industry partners across Europe through ExoMars, ProviScout, and Beagle2 missions. Part of the UK’s Robotic & Autonomous Systems Network.

Summary of Unique Capabilities:
One of the UK’s largest robotics groups. Expertise in all aspects of autonomous robotics: construction, programming, and operation. Testing of rovers, camera optics, and integration of ‘off the shelf ’ robotics with test systems. Significant involvement in the upcoming European Space Agency ExoMars mission.

Location: Physical Sciences Building,Penglais Campus, Aberystwyth

Space Research Areas:
– Astronomy and astrophysics
– Space observation

Point of Contact:
Dr Huw Morgan


Circa 8 permanent staff + post-docs

Facilities & Equipment:

– 10-inch telescope on campus & 11-inch based at nearby site (currently offline since coronavirus measures)
– ALFI software developed to measure lunar impact flashes – Solar data tools developed for coronal analysis
– Thermal imaging camera
– Telescope control room
– Collaborative access to land and space-based instruments

Collaboration History:
Part of the ESA Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) and BepiColombo missions. Working with industry bodies such as Qinetiq to investigate Earth’s magnetosphere and understand space weather. External university collaborations include UCL and Nice.

Summary of Unique Capabilities:
Research expertise in a wide range of solar system environments: planetary magnetospheres, solar atmosphere, planetary surfaces, lunar observation, and astrochemistry. Internal collaborations have enabled the development of novel optical systems for space exploration.

Location: Physical Sciences Building, Penglais Campus, Aberystwyth

Space Research Areas:
– Materials

Point of Contact:
Dr Matt Gunn

Circa 8 permanent staff + post-docs

Facilities & Equipment:

Space Instrumentation Laboratory:
– Colour targets produced for the ExoMars mission
– Control centre and replica ExoMars instruments for testing (eg PanCam)
– Reflecto-goniometer (optical characterisation of materials)
– Vacuum wind tunnel – for testing solar panels in the Martian atmosphere
– Optically simulated luminescence experiment (collaboration with the
geology department)
– Laser cutting/machining
– Laminar flow booth
– Full-scale model of ExoMars Rover (for outreach)

Mechanical workshop:
– Laser cutter (steel)
– CNC router (used for tactile models & public outreach)
– Milling machines and lathes for metal/wood

Materials Physics lab: Xray photon spectroscopy (XPS) setup:
– Electron analyser (hemisphere for energy analysis)
– Vacuum pressure epitaxial growth setup for materials analysis • Near ambient pressure XPS
– Raman microscope

Collaboration History:
Relevant space research includes the pan-Wales Sparc-II collaboration on solar cells and the former CAFMaD research venture with Bangor. Collaboration with the Open University on the PanCam project, UNIS in Svalbard and the Synchrotron diamond light source at Harwell.

Summary of Unique Capabilities:
Works closely alongside the Intelligent Robotics Group on the ExoMars mission and instrumentation development. Also has significant expertise in near-ambient Xray photon spectroscopy and modelling the effects of radiation on spacecraft dynamics.

Centre for Glaciology Research

The Centre for Glaciology Research investigates the significance of cryospheric processes on Earth’s historic and future environment. Although the group’s main focus is on ground- based field research, the Centre does use microwave satellite data to measure Antarctic
ice shelves. but. It is well situated to become more heavily involved in the downstream subsector of space-based earth observation and ecosystem dynamics as these technologies improve over time.


Earth Surface Processes Research Group

Similar to the Centre for Glaciology Research, this group focuses on the use of terrestrial monitoring, scanning and modelling technologies to understand the evolution of landscapes and water processes. Research into river morphology and pollution monitoring could be enhanced with the use of space telescopes and technology.


Vision, Graphics and Visualisation Group

The focus of the Vision, Graphics and Visualisation Group has been on topological data analysis and 3D image modelling, particularly for use in medical imaging. It works closely with the Aberystwyth Intelligent Robotics Group and has been involved in supporting its space research in the Beagle2 and ExoMars missions.


10-inch telescope on the roof of the Physical Sciences Building, Penglais Campus
10-inch telescope on the roof of the Physical Sciences Building, Penglais Campus
Small-scale Mars rover prototype, Intelligent Robotics Group, Penglais Campus
Small-scale Mars rover prototype, Intelligent Robotics Group, Penglais Campus

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(021) 111 444 90



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