The European Space Agency announced today that the upcoming launch of the ExoMars 2022 mission has been suspended.

ESA’s ruling Council, meeting in Paris on March 16-17 assessed the situation arising from the war in Ukraine regarding ExoMars, and unanimously acknowledged “the present impossibility” of carrying out the ongoing cooperation with Roscosmos on the ExoMars rover mission with a launch in 2022.

ExoMars 2022 mission was a joint ESA/Roscosmos project. Shown is rover ready to depart Russia-provided landing module and science landing platform.
Credit: Thales Alenia Space/Master Image Programmes

The Council has mandated that the ESA Director General (DG) take appropriate steps to suspend the cooperation activities accordingly, authorizing the DG “to carry out a fast-track industrial study to better define the available options for a way forward to implement the ExoMars rover mission.”

Launch of the ExoMars 2022 mission had been slated for September 20 (the opening of a 12-day launch window); lifting off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan atop a Proton booster.

That mission involved the ESA-led rover and a Roscosmos-led surface landing/science platform named “Kazachok.”

The Russian Kazachok platform was destined to land on the Red Planet as part of the ExoMars 2022 mission, shown here being shipped to Europe for final assembly and testing.
Credit: Roscosmos

Put on hold

Additionally, following the decision by Roscosmos to withdraw their personnel from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, all missions scheduled for launch by Soyuz have been put on hold.

Credit: ESA

These concern essentially four institutional missions for which ESA is the launch service procurement entity (Galileo M10, Galileo M11, Euclid and EarthCare) and one additional institutional launch, the ESA statement explains.

ESA’s Euclid mission to aims to investigate dark matter, dark energy and the expanding Universe.
Credit: ESA

Consequently, the ESA DG has initiated an assessment on potential alternative launch services for these missions, which will include a review of the Ariane 6 first exploitation flights. 

“A robust launch manifest for ESA missions’ launch needs, including for spacecraft originally planned for launch by Soyuz from Kourou, will be submitted to Member States,” the statement adds. 

The Earth Cloud Aerosol and Radiation Explorer (EarthCARE) mission was slated for launch in 2023 from Kourou, French Guiana atop a Russian Soyuz booster. It is a joint venture between ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA.
Credit: ESA–P. Carril, 2013


European values

Regarding the International Space Station, it continues to operate nominally. “The main goal is to continue safe operations of the ISS, including maintaining the safety of the crew,” the ESA statement explains.

“As an intergovernmental organization mandated to develop and implement space programs in full respect with European values, we deeply deplore the human casualties and tragic consequences of the aggression towards Ukraine,” the statement notes. “While recognizing the impact on scientific exploration of space, ESA is fully aligned with the sanctions imposed on Russia by its Member States.”

Dr. Josef Aschbacher took up duty as ESA Director General on March 1, 2021 at ESA Headquarters in Paris, France.

Way forward

Lastly, the ESA statement considers the way forward. “Based on a first analysis of technical and programmatic impacts on all other activities affected by the war in Ukraine, the Director General intends to convene an extraordinary session of Council in the coming weeks to submit specific proposals for decision by Member States.”

ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia, Latvia and Lithuania are Associate Members.

ESA has established formal cooperation with six Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programs under a Cooperation Agreement.

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