SpaceBot Cup

(Source: DLR)

SpaceBot Cup Logo (Source: DLR)

The DLR SpaceBot Cup is a space robotics contest organized by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi).With this contest, the advancement of key technologies in space robotics shall be pushed forward. The setting for the contest is a planetary exploration scenario. Competitors from universities and small companies in Germany have been called to take part in the contest. Out of all applicants, ten candidates have been selected to build one or more robots that shall achieve all predefined tasks. On an area of 36 m × 28 m that represents a planetary surface including rocks, sand and acclivities, the robots have to fulfill several tasks that are typical for a future planetary exploration scenario. There are several constraints for the contestants and the overall design time of nine months is very short. A special focus in this contest is set on aspects of autonomy. The robots have to perform all tasks autonomously. Therefore, e.g. no crew member in the control room can have visual contact to the robot(s) during the contest course.

(Source: DLR)

Illustration of the terrain for the contest (Source: DLR)


  • • The time on the planetary surface is limited to 1 h per contestant.
  • • The number of robots per contestant is not limited.
  • • The total mass that can be dropped onto the planetary surface cannot exceed 100 kg.
  • • The use of GPS is prohibited.
  • • A rough map of the environment with elevation profile will be supplied four weeks prior to the contest.
  • • Each team can have three contacts for five minutes with the rover, for telemetry download and software update. Steering of the rover is prohibited.
  • • Contact with the rover can only be established from inside of a control room from which the planetary surface is not visible.
  • • There will be latencies of a couple of seconds when communicating with the robot(s).
  • • Inclinations of 15 degrees have to be overcome.


In general, there are three categories of tasks to be absolved. The main success criteria for winning the contest is time. For any more contacts needed, interventions and not achieving tasks, this will result in addition of penalty minutes.

  1. 1. Locating and identifying objects
    The robot has to allocate itself in an unknown area. Three predefined objects that will be distributed randomly over the area have to be found, identified and mapped. The objects, as seen in figure 5, consist of a battery pack, a glass filled with water and a base station. All objects will have a distinctive color. The battery pack has a size of 10 cm × 20 cm × 4 cm and a mass of 1 kg. The glass has a diameter of 8 cm, a height of 12 cm and a mass of 1 kg. The base station has a size of 20 cm × 40 cm × 20 cm.
  2. (Source: DLR)

    Objects to be located and identified (Source: DLR)

  3. 2. Planning and Transport
    Two objects, the battery pack and the glass filled with water, have to be grasped and transported to the base station. Therfore, an optimized route through the terrain has to be calculated.
  4. 3. Obstacle avoidance and assembly
    On the drive back to the base station with the objects, an additional obstacle has to be avoided that will be put in the way of the robot(s) nominal path. With arrival at the base station, the battery pack has to be mounted to it. A contact will verify successfull mounting. The glass filled with water has to be placed on top of the base station. The mass of water will be measured automatically to figure out how much was spilled on the way. To complete the course, a switch on the base station has to be triggered.