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Forthcoming ExoMars Orbiter AO

Forthcoming ExoMars Orbiter AO

14 December 2009

Announcement of Opportunity for ExoMars Orbiter instruments to be released in January 2010.

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science Mission Directorate (SMD) intend to release in January 2010 an announcement of opportunity requesting proposals for instruments to be flown on the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter with the objective of studying trace gases in the atmosphere of Mars.

The purpose of this pre-announcement is to inform the community of the impending Announcement of Opportunity and to provide some preliminary information. A provisional schedule of milestones is also provided.

Overview of the opportunity

The announcement will be a Focused Mission of Opportunity (FMO) element of the omnibus SALMON AO. It will invite proposals for a suite of instruments to address the following prioritized scientific goals:

  1. Detect a broad suite of atmospheric trace gases and key isotopes
  2. Characterize the spatial and temporal variation of methane and other key species, ideally representing families of photochemically important trace gases (HOx, NOx, hydrocarbons, etc) and their source molecules (e.g. H2O); and
  3. Localize the sources and derive the evolution of methane and other key species and their possible interactions, including interactions with atmospheric aerosols and how they are affected by the atmospheric state (temperature and distribution of major source gases; e.g. water).
  4. Image surface features possibly related to trace gas sources and sinks.

Anticipating approval by the ESA Council, this AO will be the first competed element of the ESA-NASA joint Mars exploration programme. The agencies anticipate conducting the selection for instruments through a highly coordinated process.

From the NASA perspective participation in this AO will be open to all categories of organizations (foreign and domestic), including educational institutions, industry, not-for-profit organizations, Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC's), NASA Centers, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and other Government agencies. Principal Investigators are responsible for and allowed to assemble investigation teams from any and all of these organizations.

Given that this mission is part of the joint ESA-NASA Mars exploration programme, instrument proposals having an international dimension are encouraged. In particular, participation is encouraged from scientists in the US and in countries contributing to ESA's Aurora Program (Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Greece, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom).

The cost cap for all instruments requiring NASA funds and selected in response to this AO will be approximately $100 Million (real year). Instrument contributions from countries participating in ESA's Aurora Programme will be financed by the appropriate national funding institution, in coordination with ESA. Instrument contributions from non-US and non-ESA entities will be financed by their appropriate funding agency.

The launch of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter mission is targeted for January 2016.

The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter instruments

The scientific goals and a strawman mission are described in detail in the Report of the Joint Investigation Definition Team (JIDT), which is available to download (see link in right-hand menu).

The JIDT report discusses a potential set of instruments to address the mission science goals outlined above. Proposers should note that this was offered as a proof of concept, and does not represent any pre-selection by either ESA or NASA of instruments or techniques to accomplish the mission science goals. The strawman payload of individual instrument allocations are shown but should only be considered as a guideline.

Details of the planned solicitation

Important characteristics of this AO are expected to be:

  1. Although this is a joint mission with ESA, NASA will provide the logistical support for the review process for all proposals. The review of proposals will be a coordinated effort of ESA and NASA.

  2. Pending the submission of an adequate number of proposals of merit, ESA and NASA expect to select a combination of instrument investigations that address the mission science objectives.

  3. Proposals submitted in response to this AO will be evaluated by two independent panels, one to evaluate science merit and feasibility of the science investigation (the Science Peer Review Panel) and the other to evaluate feasibility of the implementation approach, including cost (the Technical, Management, and Cost (TMC) Review Panel).

  4. The review process will be tightly coordinated between NASA and ESA, and in some cases will be conducted jointly.

  5. NASA welcomes proposals having participants from non-U.S. institutions provided that they are offered on a no-exchange-of-funds basis and also comply with current U.S. restrictions concerning the export of technology.

  6. Data from ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter investigations must be made fully public in a usable form as soon as is practical. All data products shall be documented, validated, and calibrated in physical units usable by the scientific community at large.

Provisional schedule

The following schedule describes the anticipated major milestones of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter Announcement of Opportunity. These dates are subject to change.

AO Release approximately Mid-January, 2010
Pre-proposal Conference (Telecon) Release + 2 weeks
Notice of Intent to Propose Release + 4 weeks
Proposals due Release + 3 months
Non-U.S. Letters of Endorsement due with proposals
Selections announced (target) July 2010

Release of this AO is in the process of formally being approved by NASA and ESA. However, by sending this announcement to prospective investigators at this time (prior to release), the agencies are under no obligation to issue the AO and solicit proposals. Any costs incurred by prospective investigators in preparing submissions in response to this announcement are incurred completely at the submitter's own risk. This AO anticipated here may contain provisions that differ from this notice, in which case those in the AO will take precedence.


Questions or comments about this announcement regarding an ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter AO may be addressed to


Dr Jorge Vago, ESA ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter Instruments Programme Scientist
Directorate of Science and Robotic Exploration
The Netherlands
Telephone: +31 71 565 5211


Dr. Philippe Crane, NASA ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter Instruments Programme Scientist
Science Mission Directorate (SMD)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Washington, DC 20546-0001
Telephone: +1 (202) 358-0716

Last Update: 1 September 2019
16-Jun-2024 16:06 UT

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