[meteorite-list] ExoMars 2016 Targest March Launch Window
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri, 18 Sep 2015 15:35:49 -0700 (PDT)
ExoMars 2016 Targest March Launch Window
European Space Agency
18 September 2015
A problem recently discovered in two sensors in the propulsion system
of the entry, descent and landing demonstrator module has prompted the
recommendation to move the launch of the ExoMars 2016 mission, initially
foreseen in January, to March, still within the launch window of early
ExoMars is a joint endeavour between ESA and Russia's Roscosmos space
agency. The recommendation was made in full coordination between the two
agencies and will be finally endorsed by a joint steering board on 24
The Schiaparelli module will prove key technologies to demonstrate Europe's
capability to make a controlled landing on Mars.
The 600 kg Schiaparelli will ride to Mars on the Trace Gas Orbiter, which
will subsequently enter orbit around the Red Planet to begin its five-year
mission of studying atmospheric gases potentially linked to present-day
biological or geological activity.
Schiaparelli will separate from the orbiter three days before they reach
Mars, entering the atmosphere at 21 000 km/h. Following aerobraking in
the upper atmosphere and a parachute phase, a liquid-propellant thruster
system will brake the module to less than 5 km/h at a height of about
2 m above the surface.
At that moment, the thrusters will be switched off and the lander will
drop to the ground, where the impact will be cushioned by a crushable
structure built into the module.
Less than eight minutes will elapse between the moment when Schiaparelli
enters the atmosphere to its landing on Mars in a region known as Meridiani
However, a defect was recently found in two pressure transducers mounted
in the propulsion system.
"A failure in the production process of the pressure transducers has been
identified and this leads to concerns about leakage, which represents
a major risk to a successful landing on Mars," says Don McCoy, ESA ExoMars
"ESA has decided not to accept this risk and to remove both units from
the landing module, the knock-on effect being that we can no longer maintain
the January 2016 launch window and will instead move to the back-up launch
window in March.
"We are pleased to have identified the issue in good time, and are focusing
all our efforts to launch on 14 March."
The sensors are not part of the control loop necessary for landing, but
would rather have gathered ancillary data for monitoring the system. In
order to meet the new launch window, the decision was made to remove the
parts, rather than replace them.
The later window is open 14-25 March and, thanks to the relative orbital
positions of Earth and Mars, the mission will still arrive at Mars in
October, just as if launched in January.
A set of scientific sensors on Schiaparelli will collect data on the atmosphere
during the entry and descent, and its instruments will perform local environment
measurements at the landing site.
However, because Schiaparelli is primarily aimed at demonstrating technologies
needed for landing in preparation for future missions, the scientific
phase is limited: the module is planned to operate on the surface for
only a short time, powered by batteries.
Schiaparelli will remain a target for future laser ranging studies, as
it carries a reflector designed for this purpose.
The Trace Gas Orbiter, along with other ESA and NASA missions already
orbiting Mars, will provide communications support from Schiaparelli during
descent and on the surface, relaying the data back to Earth.
Subsequently, the orbiter will begin its programme of extensive scientific
observations, while also acting as a data relay for future missions. These
include ExoMars 2018, which will see a rover and an instrumented platform
on the surface.
Both ExoMars missions will be launched on Russian Proton rockets from
Baikonur in Kazakhstan.
For further information, please contact:
ESA Science and Robotic Exploration Communication Office
Tel: +31 71 565 6799
Mob: +31 61 594 3 954
Email: Markus.Bauer at esa.int
Rolf de Groot
ESA Coordinator for Robotic Exploration
Email: Rolf.de.Groot at esa.int
Received on Fri 18 Sep 2015 06:35:49 PM PDT