journal 20-April-2018 06:57:27

ExoMars 2016 Test Campaign Journal:
#04 - Schiaparelli and Trace Gas Orbiter united for the first time

21 April 2015

Schiaparelli has been mated, for the first time, with the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), in the Cannes facility of Thales Alenia Space (France).

This sequence of photographs shows the main steps of the complex process, which involved using a special lifting rig to move Schiaparelli, also known as the Entry, descent and landing Demonstrator Module (EDM), from the ground-handling trolley to the TGO.

3: Schiaparelli suspended.

1: Preparing to lift Schiaparelli.

2: Raising Schiaparelli.

4: Lowering Schiaparelli.

5: Closing the gap.

6: Attaching Schiaparelli.

7: Attaching Schiaparelli.

8: Attaching Schiaparelli.

9: Operation completed.

All photographs credit: ESA - B. Bethge. Click on the images for high-resolution versions and further details.

Three mobile access platforms ('cherry pickers'), each carrying 2 people to guide the process of slowly lowering Schiaparelli into position, were used. Schiaparelli is mated to TGO by 27 bolts, each of which has to be carefully fitted and torqued. Extreme caution had to be exercised, as there was a clearance of only a few centimetres between the access platforms and the TGO solar arrays.

In addition, the nine-hour mating operation, which took place on 11 April, was classified as a hazardous operation because a tank inside the TGO had been filled with isopropyl alcohol, which is used during mechanical testing to simulate a filled fuel tank. This meant that special precautions had to be taken, including having two firefighters present in the cleanroom to observe the operations as well as having other firefighters on site.

On 14 April, the spacecraft composite – the mechanically united TGO and Schiaparelli – was installed on a shaker for sine vibration testing at verification levels. These tests are ongoing.

What happens next?

Following the completion of vibration testing, the spacecraft composite will undergo acoustic noise testing. The purpose of these vibration and acoustic 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: 23 April 2015

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