Testing the ExoMars Sample Preparation and Distribution System 'breadboard' in a simulated Martian environment
The engineering prototype, or 'breadboard', of the Sample Preparation and Distribution System (SPDS), which will form part of the Analytical Laboratory Drawer (ALD), has already undergone extensive testing under ambient Earth conditions at the facilities of the development contractor, Kayser-Threde GmbH, in Munich, Germany. In mid-March, the prototype was transported to Aarhus University in Denmark for end-to-end testing in a Mars simulation chamber. Testing in a simulated Martian environment was designed to investigate the performance of the various SPDS mechanisms that will collect, pulverise and deliver the samples for analysis in the extreme cold they will encounter on the planet's surface (average temperature about -60° C) and in a rarefied (about 0.5 kPa, 0.6% of Earth value), mainly CO2 atmosphere.
The video shows the Core Sample Transportation Mechanism (CSTM) extending and being loaded with a sample; this simulates the delivery of a sample by the ExoMars drill, which is under development elsewhere. The CSTM then retracts and delivers the sample to the Crushing Station (CS); two different types of sample (claystone and coarse sand) are shown being reduced to powder. The inset images show the output of the CS and the funnel of the Powder Sample Dosing and Distribution System (PSDDS). Crushed samples are collected by the PSDDS, which rotates to place them into the Refillable Container (RC) that is mounted on the Powdered Sample Handling System (PSHS). The PSHS is a carousel that moves the samples to the single-shot Mars Organic Molecular Analysis (MOMA) pyrolysis ovens for processing and analysis. One other station, the Powder Sample Flattening Mechanism (PSFM), is equipped with a 'scraper', which is shown levelling the surface of the powdered sample in the RC. Another station houses the Refillable Container Cleaning Mechanism (RCCM) and the video ends with the cleaned RC.
Larger versions of this video can be downloaded via the links on the right-hand menu.