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Inside ExoMars - Quarterly Newsletter

Inside ExoMars - Quarterly Newsletter

Issue 4 - July 2011


What’s new for this quarter:
Negotiations between ESA and industry to achieve an acceptable cost for the ExoMars 2016 mission have been successfully concluded.
ESA and NASA have announced the scientific investigations selected for the 2016 ExoMars lander demonstrator.
ESA and NASA working groups are looking at the feasibility and definition of a joint rover for the 2018 mission.
Additional tests of the drill system in Mars-like conditions.
Tests in realistic Martian gravity for a crucial piece of ESA’s ExoMars Analytical Laboratory.


Europe moves a step closer to 2016 Mars mission

On 7 June, ESA and industry reached agreement on a budget for the 2016 mission to Mars, including the Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module and the Trace Gas Orbiter. The agreement maintains the required one billion Euros cost cap set by ESA member states participating in the joint ESA/NASA ExoMars programme. This major success enables the first mission in the ExoMars programme to proceed with the final steps towards the implementation phase (Phase C/D) contract.

The implementation plan for the second mission, due for launch in 2018, was also considered during the negotiations. However, following the recent decision to jointly develop one rover that combines the scientific objectives of both agencies, activities for the coming months will focus on study work. The planned single rover will both explore the planet’s subsurface with a drill, based on ESA’s ExoMars rover design, and collect interesting rocks to be sent to Earth, to fulfil NASA’s MAX-C rover concept.


Image of the quarter:

Preparation of the ExoMars experiment on the Zero-G aircraft. Credit: ESA - A. Pacros

The Joint Engineering Working Group and the Joint Scientific Working Group, comprised of ESA and NASA engineers and scientists, have been moving rapidly forward with vital agreements on the single rover concept. The architecture to be developed is primarily based on re-use of some elements of the NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover, which is to be launched later this year. Discussions on the sharing of responsibilities for the revised 2018 mission will continue until the end of this year. Once the study reviews are completed, further design work will commence in both agencies, targeting a launch in May 2018.

The next important milestone is the decision concerning the rider proposal for the future phases of ExoMars to be made by ESA’s Industrial Policy Committee in September. By then, NASA will have submitted a commitment letter confirming their partnership in the cooperation for both missions. Pending this decision, essential development activities are progressing with minimal funding to safeguard the 2016 launch date.

Updates on payloads

ESA and NASA have selected the science sensors and instrumentation for the 2016 ExoMars Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module (EDM). They will probe the atmosphere during the descent and return the first ever data on electric fields at the surface of Mars. After landing, the science payload will function as an environmental station for the duration of the EDM surface mission.

The science package accommodated on the ExoMars Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module surface platform.
Credit: TAS-I, DREAMS team, ESA - P. Reizi

ESA has also received the interface control documents prepared by the instrument teams and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, describing the interfaces for the instruments to be carried by the Trace Gas Orbiter. The five instruments will investigate the Martian atmosphere, searching for evidence of gases with possible biological importance.

The design activities for the instruments on the 2018 mission are also ongoing, taking into account the structure of the single rover. Some modifications are under consideration to allow the optimal accommodation on this new rover design.

The drill tool engineering model and the drill unit breadboard have been successfully tested on diverse reference materials, including porous rocks that contained iced-materials, in Mars-like conditions (low temperature and pressure, CO2 atmosphere). The drill engineering qualification model is being assembled and will be ready to undergo test campaigns in end-2011.

The drill breadboard tested in Mars-like conditions.
Credit: Selex Galileo

In the meantime, a part of the sample handling and distribution system (SPDS), designed to process Martian soil samples collected by the drill and deliver them to the instruments inside the ExoMars rover, has been tested in realistic Martian gravity. This ExoMars element (sample dosing station) was a passenger on Europe’s ‘Zero-G’ Airbus, which performed the first parabolic flight campaign dedicated to research in ‘partial’ gravity. The Airbus flights gave the ExoMars team a total of about 20 minutes of Martian gravity, during which the system, placed in a chamber recreating the pressure and temperature of the Martian environment, was characterised.


Save the Date

12-16 September
Alaska, U.S.A.
Fifth International Conference on Mars Polar Science and Exploration
2-7 October
Nantes, France
European Planetary Science Conference – Division of Planetary Sciences Joint Meeting 2011
5-9 December
California, U.S.A.
American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2011
For more information, you can also access the complete
Events Archive



ExoMars Timeline 2011

April - June Selection of the ExoMars 2016 Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module payload
Start of Implementation Phase (C/D) for ExoMars 2016 mission
April - December
ESA-NASA Joint Exploration Working Group studies to establish an architecture for the joint single rover mission in 2018
For more information, you can also access the complete ExoMars timeline

Disclaimer: Future milestones are indicative and subject to change


To stay informed about the ExoMars activities, subscribe to our mailing list.

ESA – ExoMars Programme Don McCoy ExoMars Project Manager


Last Update: 1 September 2019
18-Aug-2022 05:22 UT

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