Europe's ExoMars 2016 spacecraft - ready for shipment to Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Credit: Thales Alenia Space France

Europe’s ExoMars 2016 spacecraft – ready for shipment to
Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
Credit: Thales Alenia Space France

The voyage of Europe’s ExoMars 2016 spacecraft is moving closer to the Red Planet – departing the clean rooms of Thales Alenia Space in Cannes for shipment to Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

This ExoMars spacecraft is headed for a March 2016 liftoff atop a Proton booster.

ExoMars is a joint endeavor between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos), with the Italian Space Agency (ASI) as a major contributor.

Two separate missions

As the first mission in ESA’s Aurora exploration program, the ExoMars effort is made up of two separate missions.

The first mission in 2016 will study Mars’ atmosphere and demonstrate the feasibility of several critical technologies for atmospheric entry, descent and landing.

The second mission in this program — in 2018 — will include an autonomous European rover, capable of taking soil samples down to a depth of two meters, and analyzing their chemical, physical and biological properties.

Modules for Mars

For the 2016 mission, the Entry, Descent and landing Demonstration module (EDM) has been developed by Thales Alenia Space Italy.

Interior of the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator module. Schiaparelli carries a small science payload, called DREAMS (Dust Characterisation, Risk Assessment, and Environment Analyser on the Martian Surface), to study the environment. DREAMS consists of a suite of sensors to measure the local wind speed and direction (MetWind), humidity (DREAMS-H), pressure (DREAMS-P), atmospheric temperature close to the surface (MarsTem), the transparency of the atmosphere (Solar Irradiance Sensor, SIS), and atmospheric electric fields (Atmospheric Radiation and Electricity Sensor; MicroARES) at Mars. The payload will operate on the surface of Mars for 2–8 sols. In addition, there is an investigation known as AMELIA, for entry and descent science data collection using the spacecraft engineering sensors. A separate instrumentation package, COMARS+, will monitor the heat flux on the back cover of Schiaparelli as it passes through the atmosphere. A compact array of laser retroreflectors is attached to the zenith-facing surface of Schiaparelli. This can be used as a target for Mars orbiters to laser-locate the module. A UHF antenna is used for communicating with the Trace Gas Orbiter. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Interior of the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator module.
Schiaparelli carries a small science payload, called DREAMS (Dust Characterisation, Risk Assessment, and Environment Analyser on the Martian Surface), to study the environment.
DREAMS consists of a suite of sensors to measure the local wind speed and direction (MetWind), humidity (DREAMS-H), pressure (DREAMS-P), atmospheric temperature close to the surface (MarsTem), the transparency of the atmosphere (Solar Irradiance Sensor, SIS), and atmospheric electric fields (Atmospheric Radiation and Electricity Sensor; MicroARES) at Mars. The payload will operate on the surface of Mars for 2–8 sols.
In addition, there is an investigation known as AMELIA, for entry and descent science data collection using the spacecraft engineering sensors. A separate instrumentation package, COMARS+, will monitor the heat flux on the back cover of Schiaparelli as it passes through the atmosphere.
A compact array of laser retroreflectors is attached to the zenith-facing surface of Schiaparelli. This can be used as a target for Mars orbiters to laser-locate the module.
A UHF antenna is used for communicating with the Trace Gas Orbiter.
Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Thales Alenia Space France is responsible for the design and integration of the 2016 orbital module, or TGO (Trace Gas Orbiter).

The ExoMars spacecraft will reach the Red Planet in October 2016 and consists of the TGO and EDM modules.

2016 mission aims

The aims of the ExoMars 2016 mission are to:

  • Validate landing on the planet Mars with a demonstration capsule weighing about 600 kg, using a control system based on a radar altimeter, and with a carbon fiber shock absorber to attenuate the hard contact with the surface.
  • Gather as much information as possible during entry into the Martian atmosphere.
  • Carry out scientific sampling on the surface for a short period.
  • Observe the Martian atmosphere and surface for two years from the orbiter at an altitude of 400 kilometers.
  • Provide the telecommunication support needed by the rover for the 2018 mission.

The EDM for ExoMars 2016 is named “Schiaparelli” in honor of the Italian astronomer Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli – considered one of the leading figures in 19th century Italian astronomy, and also a leading scholar of ancient astronomy science and history.

Patrice Caine, Thales Chairman & CEO noted: “This program, which also  involves 134 other space companies from ESA countries,  is a key first step for an unprecedented European scientific mission on Mars.”

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