ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli Mission (2016)
The first mission of the ExoMars programme, scheduled to arrive at Mars in 2016, consists of a Trace Gas Orbiter plus an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, known as Schiaparelli. The main objectives of this mission are to search for evidence of methane and other trace atmospheric gases that could be signatures of active biological or geological processes and to test key technologies in preparation for ESA's contribution to subsequent missions to Mars.
The Orbiter and Schiaparelli will be launched together in March 2016 on a Proton rocket and will fly to Mars in a composite configuration. By taking advantage of the positioning of Earth and Mars the cruise phase can be limited to about 7 months, with the pair arriving at Mars in October. Three days before reaching the atmosphere of Mars, Schiaparelli will be ejected from the Orbiter towards the Red Planet. Schiaparelli will then coast towards its destination, enter the Martian atmosphere at 21 000 km/h, decelerate using aerobraking and a parachute, and then brake with the aid of a thruster system before landing on the surface of the planet. From its coasting to Mars till its landing, Schiaparelli will communicate with the Orbiter. Once on the surface, the communications of Schiaparelli will be supported from a NASA Relay Orbiter. The ExoMars Orbiter will be inserted into an elliptical orbit around Mars and then sweep through the atmosphere to finally settle into a circular,
Trace Gas Orbiter - Searching for signature gases in the Martian atmosphere
The Orbiter spacecraft is designed by ESA, while Roscosmos provides the launch vehicle. A scientific payload with instruments from Russia and Europe will be accommodated on the Orbiter to achieve its scientific objectives. The Orbiter will perform detailed, remote observations of the Martian atmosphere, searching for evidence of gases of possible biological importance, such as methane and its degradation products. The instruments onboard the Orbiter will carry out a variety of measurements to investigate the location and nature of sources that produce these gases. The scientific mission is expected to begin in mid-2017 and will run for five years. The Trace Gas Orbiter will also serve as a data relay asset for the 2018 rover mission of the ExoMars programme and until the end of 2022.
Schiaparelli: an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module
ExoMars 2016 Mission Phases Overview
|Launch Period||14-25 March 2016|
|Schiaparelli – Orbiter separation||16 October 2016|
|Orbiter insertion into Mars orbit||19 October 2016|
|Schiaparelli enters Martian atmosphere and lands on the target site||19 October 2016|
|Schiaparelli science operations||
(to be confirmed)
|Orbiter changes inclination to science orbit (74°)||25 October 2016|
|Apocentre reduction manoeuvres (from the initial 4-sol orbit to a 1-sol orbit)||27 October 2016|
|Aerobraking phase (Orbiter lowers its altitude)||4 November 2016 - mid 2017|
|Start operating the Orbiter scientific instruments||mid 2017|
|Superior conjunction (This is when the Sun is between Earth and Mars; Critical operations are paused.)||11 July - 11 August 2017|
|Start of the data relay operations to support communications for the rover mission||17 January 2019|
|End of mission||December 2022|
Keeping in touch far from home
After launch and throughout the cruise phase, the spacecraft unit made up of the Orbiter and Schiaparelli is operated by ESA through the space communications network of ESA's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC).
After separation, the Orbiter will monitor the UHF transmission from Schiaparelli from its coasting to Mars till its landing. A NASA Relay Orbiter will act as a data relay for Schiaparelli during its surface operations. Furthermore, ground-based communication arrays will also track the UHF signal during the entry, descent and landing phases.
ESA will be in full control of the Orbiter during all phases of its mission, including insertion into Mars orbit, orbit control, aerobraking, science operations and Mars communications operations.