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ExoMars 2016 Test Campaign Journal: #03 - Schiaparelli meets the Trace Gas Orbiter

07 April 2015

The protoflight model of Schiaparelli, also known as the Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module (EDM), has arrived at Thales Alenia Space (France) in Cannes and is ready for mating to the Trace Gas Orbiter.

Schiaparelli and Trace Gas Orbiter. Credit: ESA - B. Bethge

In 2016, Schiaparelli will make contact with the Martian surface. It is therefore subject to special planetary protection measures and, as a result, it must be transported in a special environmentally controlled transport container, which consists of an inner and an outer shell. This is the same container used two years ago to transport the Schiaparelli structural model to ESA's European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, the Netherlands for qualification vibration testing.

The dual container is designed to ensure that Earth microbes and dust do not contaminate Schiaparelli during transport. The Schiaparelli protoflight model was assembled in a special cleanroom (ISO 7 / Class 10,000 – 10 times cleaner than a normal spacecraft cleanroom) where the atmosphere was regularly monitored for particulate and also micro-bacteriological contamination to satisfy planetary protection requirements.

On 6 March 2015, Schiaparelli left the Turin premises of Thales Alenia Space (Italy), where it had been integrated, arriving in Cannes the next day.

Payload deck of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. Credit: ESA - B. Bethge

Upon arrival in Cannes, a leak test of Schiaparelli was performed in its transport container. After that, an electrical checkout was performed and the Main Separation Assembly (MSA) was installed, followed by a number of other completion activities. Now, Schiaparelli is ready for mating with the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO).

Meanwhile, on the TGO side, the qualification model of the Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector (FREND) that had been installed on the TGO was replaced with the flight model on 11 March 2015.

Furthermore, the deployment of the orbiter's 2.2m high gain antenna has been tested on 31 March, and its two solar arrays are being installed.

What happens next?

Prior to mechanical mating with the TGO, an electrical connection will be made between Schiaparelli and the TGO, and the signals between the two components will be tested. After that, Schiaparelli will be mounted mechanically on top of the TGO and the resulting 'SpaceCraft Composite' (SCC) will be installed on a shaker for sine vibration testing at verification levels, followed by acoustic noise testing The purpose of these tests is to qualify the spacecraft design by ensuring that it will be able to withstand the rigours of the mechanical environment it will experience during its launch on a Proton rocket.

After the mechanical test campaign, the modules will be separated again and will be subjected to various system and mission validation tests, launcher interface check and finally, thermal vacuum testing and end-to-end system testing.

About the ExoMars 2016 Mission

The first mission of the ExoMars programme, which is scheduled to arrive at Mars in 2016, consists of a Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and an Entry, descent and landing Demonstrator Module (EDM), called Schiaparelli. The main objectives of this mission are to search for evidence of methane and other trace atmospheric gases that could indicate active biological or geological processes and to test key technologies in preparation for ESA's contribution to subsequent missions to Mars.

The ExoMars 2016 mission is led by ESA, with partner Roscosmos supplying the launcher and two of the four instruments of the scientific payload. The other two instruments are provided by European Consortia. The Prime Contractors are Thales Alenia Space (Italy) for the overall spacecraft and Schiaparelli, while the TGO is being built by Thales Alenia Space (France) together with Co-Prime OHB (Germany).

Last Update: 22 April 2015

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