The European Space Agency (ESA) and the Roscosmos Space Corporation have decided to postpone the launch of the second ExoMars mission to study the Red Planet to 2022.
The joint ESA-Roscosmos project team evaluated all the activities needed for an authorisation to launch, in order to analyse the risks and schedule. With due consideration of the recommendations provided by European and Russian Inspectors General, ExoMars experts have concluded that tests necessary to make all components of the spacecraft fit for the Mars adventure need more time to complete.
The primary goal of the mission is to determine if there has ever been life on Mars, and to better understand the history of water on the planet. The ExoMars rover, named Rosalind Franklin, includes a drill to access the sub-surface of Mars as well as a miniature life-search laboratory kept within an ultra-clean zone.
In the frame of a dedicated meeting, ESA and Roscosmos heads Jan Wörner and Dmitry Rogozin agreed that further tests to the spacecraft with the final hardware and software are needed. In addition, the parties had to recognise that the final phase of ExoMars activities are compromised by the general aggravation of the epidemiological situation in European countries.
"We have made a difficult but well-weighed decision to postpone the launch to 2022. It is driven primarily by the need to maximise the robustness of all ExoMars systems as well as force majeure circumstances related to exacerbation of the epidemiological situation in Europe which left our experts practically no possibility to proceed with travels to partner industries. I am confident that the steps that we and our European colleagues are taking to ensure mission success will be justified and will unquestionably bring solely positive results for the mission implementation," said Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin.
"We want to make ourselves 100% sure of a successful mission. We cannot allow ourselves any margin of error. More verification activities will ensure a safe trip and the best scientific results on Mars,” said ESA Director General Jan Wörner.
"I want to thank the teams in industry that have been working around the clock for nearly a year to complete assembly and environmental testing of the whole spacecraft. We are very much satisfied of the work that has gone into making a unique project a reality and we have a solid body of knowledge to complete the remaining work as quickly as possible."
To date, all flight hardware needed for the launch of ExoMars has been integrated in the spacecraft. The Kazachok landing platform is fully equipped with thirteen scientific instruments, and the Rosalind Franklin rover with its nine instruments recently passed final thermal and vacuum tests in France.
The latest ExoMars parachutes dynamic extraction tests have been completed successfully at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the main parachutes are ready for the two final high-altitude drop tests in March in Oregon, US.
The descent module has been undergoing propulsion system qualification in the past month. The ExoMars descent module and landing platform have been undergoing environmental testing in Cannes, France, to confirm the spacecraft is ready to endure the harsh conditions of space on its journey to Mars.
The new schedule foresees a launch between August and October 2022. Celestial mechanics define that only relatively short launch windows (10 days each) every two years exist in which Mars can be reached from Earth.
ExoMars will be the first mission to search for signs of life at depths up to two metres below the martian surface, where biological signatures of life may be uniquely well preserved.
The ExoMars programme is a joint endeavour between the Roscosmos State Corporation and ESA. Apart from the 2022 mission, it includes the Trace Gas Orbiter launched in 2016. The TGO is already both delivering important scientific results obtained by its own Russian and European science instruments and relaying data from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover and InSight lander. The module will also relay the data from the ExoMars 2022 mission once it arrives at Mars.
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About the European Space Agency
The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.
ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.
ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia is an Associate Member.
ESA has established formal cooperation with seven Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.
By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes as well as with Eumetsat for the development of meteorological missions.
ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.
Today, it develops and launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space. ESA also has a strong applications programme developing services in Earth observation, navigation and telecommunications.
Learn more about ESA at www.esa.int
Roscosmos is a state corporation established in 2015 with the aim to implement a comprehensive reform of the Russian space industry.
Roscosmos translates national policy into space activities and provides their legal regulation, engages industry for space engineering and development of infrastructure. The Corporation is also responsible for the development of international cooperation in space and utilisation of the benefits of space activities for socio-economic development of Russia.
Roscosmos incorporates more than 90 industries throughout Russia with the number of employees approximating 200 000.
Learn more about Roscosmos State Corporation at www.roscosmos.ru