ExoMars 2016/2020 Data and Analysis (updates)


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The 2020 time frame will be extremely busy on Mars.....and now, the Chinese are thinking 2020 for their lander as well. Maybe SpaceX can drop off a Martian Traffic control system.......

China's 2020 Mars probe unveiled

The gold coloured model, which is a third of the size of the actual probe, consists of an orbiter and a lander. (Photo: Long Wei, Asia News Photo)

A model of China’s Martian probe will debut on Tuesday at the 17th China International Industry Fair in Shanghai, reportedXinhua News Agency.

The gold coloured model, which is a third of the size of the actual probe, consists of an orbiter and a lander and will be displayed at China's Aerospace Science and Technology Crop's exhibition stand.

It forms a complete exploration system with a prototype Mars rover, which was displayed at an air show in Zhuhai last year.

Following a successful soft landing on the moon in late 2013, China has now set its sights on the Red Planet and plan to launch the probe around 2020.

India's impressive Mars Orbiter Mission and NASA's recent announcement of liquid water on Mars sparked public andmedia reaction, calling for China to put more resources into space exploration and scientific discovery.

China has also announced it will launch four scientific space probes over the next year, focussing on the detection of dark matter, quantum science experiments, space life science and the observation of black holes.



Hopefully, in the next few month's, we will have a better idea of the equipment and the experiments to be carried out...they have been pretty good about sharing their scientific data from probes....including pictures.......:)


NASA to Unveil New Findings About Mars' Atmosphere Thursday

Artist’s illustration of NASA's MAVEN spacecraft, which is investigating how, why and when Mars lost most of its atmosphere.

NASA will reveal new results about the atmosphere of Mars this Thursday (Nov. 5), and you can watch the action live.

The space agency is hosting a news conference on Thursday at 2 p.m. EST (1900 GMT) to "announce new findings on [the] fate of Mars' atmosphere," according to a NASA media advisory. You can watch the news conferencelive here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV.

The list of speakers for Thursday's event makes clearicon1.png that the press conference will report discoveries made by NASA's MAVEN spacecraft, which has been studying the Red Planet from orbit since late 2014:



  • Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters
  • Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Jasper Halekas, MAVEN Solar Wind Ion Analyzer instrument lead at the University of Iowa
  • Yaxue Dong, MAVEN science team member at LASP
  • Dave Brain, MAVEN co-investigator at LASP

MAVEN's name is short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution. The main goals of the $670 million mission involve determining how, why and when the Red Planet lost most of its atmosphere. (Mars' air was once thick enough to support large bodies of liquid surface water, but it's now just 1 percent as dense as that of Earth at sea level.)

"Scientists will use MAVEN data to determine the role that loss of volatiles from the Mars atmosphere to space has played through time, giving insight into the history of Mars' atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability," NASA officials wrote on MAVEN's mission page.

MAVEN launched in November 2013, arrived in orbit around the Red Planet in September 2014 and began its science mission two months later.

MAVEN is one of five operational spacecraft currently orbiting Mars. The other ones are NASA's Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, India's Mangalyaan probe and the European Space Agency's Mars Express.


mmmmmmmmmmmmmm....not going to ...........:) 

Edited by Draggendrop
forgot data
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Swiss Camera Leaves for Mars

The full instrument sitting on the bench in the Uni Bern laboratory. The electronics unit (left) controls the telescope (right). The black part of the instrument is the telescope structure. The main mirror can be seen in the centre. The telescope is cantilevered off the gold coloured support structure.

A camera designed and built at the University of Bern will leave Bern on Monday, 9 November, at 6:00 in the morning for Cannes in France where it will be integrated on the European Space Agency's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) spacecraft at the premises of Thales-Alenia Space.

The TGO spacecraft is scheduled to launch from Baikonur in Kazakhstan on 12 March 2016 and will arrive at Mars in October 2016. The camera, called CaSSIS (Color and Stereo Surface Imaging System), has been developed in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency and the Space Research Center in Warsaw and with the support of Swiss (RUAG Space, Zurich), Italian, and Hungarian (SGF, Budapest) industry.

CaSSIS has been designed to complement existing imaging systems orbiting Mars by providing high-resolution stereo images in full color of specific targets. It will also support other instruments on TGO looking for the sources of trace gases such as methane.

"CaSSIS is the best system we could build with the available resources," said the leader of the science team, Nicolas Thomas of the Center of Space and Habitability (CSH) of the University of Bern.

"Looking from 100 kilometers above, we would be able to precisely picture cars with this camera -- in color and stereo. One of our goals is to look at changes on Mars. We now know that surface changes on Mars are common and we need a tool to follow those changes."

Built in 27 Instead of 38 Months
Thomas's team was originally selected by NASA to provide a Swiss-built telescope to an American camera. "Unfortunately, our American partners had to pull out," said Thomas. "But the ExoMars program is so important to Europe that we were asked to take over leadership and try to complete the whole system."

Project manager Ruth Ziethe from the University of Bern explained: "The challenge has been to complete the camera in time. We only had 27 months -- normally you would budget 38 months for such a complicated instrument.

The Uni Bern team and our partners have worked incredibly hard to meet the launch date."

The science team is already looking forward to the data. "Once in orbit, we will use the atmosphere of Mars to slow the spacecraft down and get to a low circular orbit, 400 km over the surface," explained Thomas.

"This process will take about a year, so we expect our best data to be obtained after mid-2017." C

aSSIS will then start looking for more evidence of liquid water on the surface and trying to find sources of trace gases that might be significant for both geology and biology.


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Again...We have more activity on Mars for 2020.....It will be busy there.......

The United Arab Emirates' mission to Mars

The mission is to send a probe on a 60 million kilometre journey to orbit Mars, in order to help discover why the Red Planet - thought once to have had water like Earth - is now dry.

Fittingly, this project is being undertaken by the desert state of the United Arab Emirates.

It's the first space exploration mission ever to be launched by an Arab state, and the UAE's space agency has just five years to build the probe and all its components.

The launch date is in July 2020, at a point when Earth and Mars are aligned in their orbits around the sun and closest to one another.

The plan is for the probe to enter Mars' orbit on the 50th anniversary of the UAE's foundation as an independent country.

At the Dubai Airshow, the UAE Space Agency has been showing its project to the public and the international media.

"There's a window of around two to three weeks - the launching window - if you miss that, you have to wait another two years," says the space agency's director general Dr Mohammed Naser al Ahbabi.

"It is challenging. If we miss that, we will miss our 50th anniversary arrival at Mars. So this is another challenge."

Science mission

At the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai, a team of 75 engineers are building the satellite, which is roughly the size of a small car.

Dubai's launch date is July 2020, at a point when Earth and Mars are closest to one another

They are also making all the components, such as imaging equipment, ultraviolet and infrared spectrometers, solar panels, a star-tracker navigation system and the thrusters that will slow the craft down once it reaches Mars orbit.

Everyone on the team is Emirati, and the average age is 32.

"The goal is unifying and inspiring young people in the UAE," says Dr al Ahbabi. "Now, young Emiratis are desperate to work on this and to be part of this journey into space."

The plan is for the probe to orbit Mars for two years, collecting data about the planet's upper and lower atmospheres. Recent explorations by NASA suggest Mars used to have a cool climate and a lot of water on its surface.

Scientists believe the atmosphere thinned to the point where Mars became so hot that all the water evaporated, the molecules escaping though the edge of the atmosphere into space.

The data collected by the probe will be presented to NASA for analysis. It may help scientists forecast what effect global warming will have on water resources here on Earth.

"Our science mission will validate some of the suggestions of about there having been water on Mars," says Dr al Ahbabi.

"But it will also contribute to a better understanding of Mars, because understanding what happened to Mars may help us understand what is happening to our home - Earth - and how we can protect the atmosphere of Earth. So it is a great contribution to our home planet."

The plan is for the probe, named Al Amal, or Hope, to orbit Mars for two years, collecting data about the planet's atmosphere

Dubai, which is home to the Mars mission, is already well-known for extravagant, headline-grabbing projects such as building huge islands in the sea, and the world's tallest tower.

High profile, high cost

The ruler of Dubai and UAE Vice-President, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, unveiled the space mission last year.

The nation's rulers want to put the UAE at the forefront of scientific endeavour in the Arab world and recapture some of the spirit of the Golden Age of Islam when - in medieval times - the Middle East led the world in learning.

"This is the first Arab and Islamic country which has stepped into space exploration," says Dr al Ahbabi. "Space is a great model for international co-operation, regardless of our differences on Earth."

However, with a city as mercantile as Dubai as its base, there are also hard-headed commercial considerations behind the Mars mission.

The US's Space Foundation says the global space industry generates revenues of over $330bn a year. Three-quarters of the sales of space equipment - such as satellites and launch rockets - are to commercial customers such as television and communications companies and the UAE wants to gain a stake in this market.


The UAE also hopes its Mars mission will help it gain a share of the $330bn-a-year global space business

UAE scientists have, in fact, built satellites before, in collaboration with scientists from South Korea. The first, DubaiSat 1, was designed and built almost entirely by the Koreans, but with DubaiSat 2, the Emirati team built half the satellite themselves.

With the Mars satellite, the mission team is building all its high-technology imaging and navigation components from scratch, rather than buying them off-the-shelf from established manufacturers such as Boeing.

It will then be able to market them to its customers of its own. However, the mission team is receiving technical advice from four US universities.

So far, UAE says it has spent over $5bn on its satellite programme. Billions more will be spent on the Mars mission. It is a high-profile, but high-cost, way for the nation to enter the global space industry.



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ExoMars Work at Frenzied Pace To Make 2016 Launch Date

The ExoMars entry, descent and landing demonstrator module is installed at the top of the Trace Gas Orbiter at the Thales Alenia Space facility in Cannes, France. Credit: ESA/Stephane Corvaja

CANNES, France — Europe’s two-launch ExoMars mission to Mars in 2016 and 2018, which has run a budgetary obstacle course from the start, remains in deadlined-stressed mode with triple-shift work days on the eve of first mission’s shipment to Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome to prepare for a March launch, government and industry officials said Nov. 24.

Contrary to what several European Space Agency governments thought as they reluctantly financed the 1.2 billion-euro ($1.28 billion) ExoMars project — Europe’s principal space exploration mission — the industrial team led by Thales Alenia Space has been able to keep to the schedule and save the 2016 launch date.

A component defect discovered only this summer forced a slip in the schedule and the loss of the January launch window. But a backup date of March 14-25 has been secured on a Russian Proton rocket. Russia is ESA’s partner in ExoMars and is providing two Proton rockets for the launches, plus considerable scientific hardware for the 2018 mission.

Pending several final system validations with ESA that Thales Alenia Space characterized as routine, the 2016 mission’s construction phase ends Dec. 10. Three Antonov cargo jets then will carry the more than 50,000 kilograms of ExoMars gear from Turin, Italy, to Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan between Dec. 18 and Dec. 21.

Walter Cugno, ExoMars program director at Thales Alenia Space, said that if necessary some last-minute work could be conducted at the Baikonur facility, but that he foresaw no technical issues that would delay the cargo flights.

“Some people thought we would never get to this point,” ESA Science and Robotic Exploration Director Alvaro Gimenez said here Nov. 25 during an ExoMars briefing at Thales Alenia Space’s plant. “And this is not the end of the story. We need to look further, toward a Mars sample return. We are already studying a sample return mission from [the Martian moon] Phobos with Russia, and we are talking with NASA about where to go on sample return.”

For now, ESA still needs to complete the financing for ExoMars. The 2018 mission is missing around 175 million euros and maybe more depending on how negotiations with the industrial team conclude.


The ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module separates from the Trace Gas Orbiter and heads for Mars. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab artist’s concept

While all the small component builders are under contract to prevent schedule delays for the 2018 mission, the principal hardware development contract with Thales Alenia Space, Airbus Defence and Space’s British division and OHB SE of Germany has not been signed.

Gimenez said that if negotiations with industry drag on through the spring, ESA may resort to a series of smaller cost-reimbursement contracts with the principal companies to maintain the schedule.

As was the case with the 2016 package, the 2018 mission, which includes much more Russian participation as well as a European rover vehicle, has little schedule margin. Already some are talking about a 2019 launch that would use a different route to Mars to arrive at about the same time.

That such talk is still occurring is a measure of the drama that has beset ExoMars since it was first proposed by Italy.

ExoMars began as a technology demonstration mission to give Europe its own entry, descent and landing capability. It was gradually expanded to include a sizable science capability, including the rover and associated science package. The budget doubled.

The 2016 mission features a Mars orbiter that will test for trace gases in the atmosphere, plus a lander that will be carried by the orbiter and then ejected to operate for several days on Mars’ surface after having demonstrated the entry and landing capability aided by a supersonic parachute, also made in Europe.

On descent to the Mars surface, the lander will be in communications with NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

While NASA sharply reduced its contribution to ExoMars — a development that brought in Russia’s Roscosmos space agency to save the project — the U.S. agency has not completely left the mission. NASA is providing a UHF package that will enable communications between the lander and the European orbiter and with ESA’s Mars Express orbiter, which has been in Mars orbit since December 2003.

Sergei Valentinovich Saveliev, deputy head of Roscosmos, said his agency had been given the resources to hold up Russia’s end. As a condition of its participation, Roscosmos had said it would not simply provide two Proton rockets to fill in for the departing NASA.

“We proposed that Russia would be a full participant in the development of scientific equipment and that the two partners would have joint access to the scientific data,” Saveliev said, adding that some in Russia had opposed the program.

“This is a very complex and costly project that cannot be done by one country alone,” Saveliev said. “We believe other [joint] projects will follow. This will not be the last one.” 



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ExoMars has historical, practical significance for Russia, Europe

file image

The ExoMars program to explore the environment on Mars has historical and practical significance for Russia and Europe, deputy-head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Sergei Savelev, said Thursday.

In 2012, the European Space Agency and Roscosmos agreed to develop the ExoMars program with the objective of investigating the environment on Mars to find out whether life ever existed on the planet.

"The ExoMars project certainly has historical and practical significance for Russia and Europe... Despite the complexity of the geopolitical situation, space cooperation is not only not being scaled down, but we, together with the European Space Agency, are developing plans for its expansion," Savelev told RIA Novosti.

He explained that the project's practical significance for Russia is that it allows the country, despite its "very tight budget," to participate in a modern and very expensive mission, which, if successful, would open access to "the most important scientific information."

It is hoped that two missions will be launched under the ExoMars program. In 2016, an orbital probe will be launched to Mars to study the planet's atmosphere and to exchange data with a rover. In 2018, a Martian rover probe will be launched to explore the surface of the planet.



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ExoMars nears launch, thanks to nonstop work in factory



Artist’s concept of Europe’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter at Mars. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab




Working around the clock to meet a 12-day launch window in March, European engineers are putting the final touches on a Mars orbiter that could shed light on whether tiny microbes or geologic activity still linger on the barren planet.

A stationary landing craft will accompany the orbiter on the seven-month journey to the red planet.

At launch, the tandem composite will weigh 4.3 metric tons, or 9,480 pounds, making the combined spacecraft one of the biggest and heaviest ever to go to Mars.

The duo will arrive at Mars on Oct. 19, 2016.

Inside a pristine chamber at Thales Alenia Space’s satellite factory in Cannes, France, technicians are finishing up preparations to ship the two spacecraft to their launch base at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The European Space Agency only authorized full development of the mission in 2013 — two-and-a-half years ago — and officials have so far kept to their commitment to have the two probes ready for launch in 2016.

“I cannot express how happy I am of being here, that we got to this point that some people thought was not going to come, at least not in time,” said Alvaro Gimenez, director of ESA’s science directorate. “But we are here. We are ready now to ship the spacecraft to Baikonur and launch it.”

The launch scheduled for March 14 aboard a Russian Proton rocket is the first of Europe’s two-part ExoMars program, ESA’s most ambitious Mars mission to date. Next year’s launch will be followed up in May 2018 by the liftoff of a European-built rover that will descend to the Martian surface.

The road to the launch pad appears for the 2016 launch appears smooth, assuming no last-minute glitches, according to Walter Cugno, ExoMars program director at Thales.

“We want to be ready for the first launch attempt, which is March 14,” Cugno told Spaceflight Now in an interview. “The launch window is up to the 25th of March, but we want to be ready for the first attempt to have some margin just in case.”

Cugno said ground crews have worked in three shifts — around the clock — more more than a year to make sure the two spacecraft are ready to meet their launch date.

The long days are not over.

A final vibration and acoustic test of the spacecraft, along with communications link checks with Europe’s spaceflight control center in Germany, are the last items on the to-do list before the orbiter and lander are packed up and flown to Kazakhstan.




Three Antonov cargo jets will depart an airport in Torino, Italy, on Dec. 18, 19 and 21. The flights will go through Moscow for a customs check, then proceed to Baikonur.

The first flight of the heavy-duty transport plane will deliver ground support equipment, including a tent in which the Mars lander will be prepared for launch. The tent is necessary to meet stringent contamination restrictions crafted to prevent Earth bacteria from reaching Mars, and no clean room exists at Baikonur pristine enough to meet the requirements, Cugno said.

The second and third Antonov transports will take the lander and orbiter to the Kazakh launch base on separate sorties.

Teams have just one day of schedule margin, excluding weekends, to have the entry module ready in time for March 14. The schedule for the orbiter is less tight, Cugno said.

Technicians will work nonstop over the holidays to try to build up more breathing room in the schedule. If the launch is not off by March 25, or perhaps a couple of days later, the mission will be delayed more than two years because the planets are out of alignment to make the voyage possible.

“We arrive in Baikonur a few days before Christmas, and we are going to work through Christmas continuously without any break until we will be finalizing the checkouts in preparation for the launch,” Cugno said.

Propellants for the lander’s descent rockets will be loaded at the end of January, and workers will attach the descent capsule to the orbiter Feb. 12, according to Cugno. Then the orbiter will be ready to receive its propellants, totaling 2.3 metric tons (5,070 pounds), comprising more than half its liftoff weight.

The procedure to attach the spacecraft to the Proton launcher and its Breeze M upper stage begins Feb. 26.

in depth article at the link.....



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December 23, 2015 Scientific apparatus ExoMars mission in 2016 - an orbital module, a demonstration landing module Schiaparelli («Schiaparelli") arrived at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Start the mission is scheduled for 14-25 March 2016. Demonstration landing module Schiaparelli arrived in Baikonur on December 22 orbiter - December 23, 2015.

ExoMars Mission 2016 envisages sending to Mars orbiter and landing demonstration module Schiaparelli. To start the machine will be used by Russian carrier rocket "Proton-M" with the upper stage "Breeze-M". Orbiting platforms and demo module produces ESA. Orbital module by means including Russian scientific equipment developed at the Institute of Space Research Institute (IKI), will examine atmospheric trace species and the distribution of water ice in the soil of Mars. Demonstration landing module is designed to work out the necessary technology reentry, descent and landing and research scientific instruments. The orbital module will relay data from a demo unit amphibious assault mission in 2016, landing module and a rover mission in 2018.




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European Mars probe arrives at launch site



The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is closed inside a shipping container before leaving Thales Alenia Space’s facility in Cannes, France, on Dec. 17. Credit: ESA – B. Bethge



Three heavy-duty Antonov cargo planes flew components of Europe’s ExoMars orbiter and lander from Italy to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazkhastan last week, setting up for a March 14 launch toward the red planet.


The Mars mission materials will be assembled, tested, fueled and attached to a Proton rocket over the coming months on the first of two launches for the ExoMars program, to be followed by the departure of a European-made rover to the red planet in 2018.


Liftoff of the first ExoMars mission is set for March 14, at the opening of a 12-day launch period. That launch will carry the Trace Gas Orbiter instrumented with sensors to sniff out methane in the Martian atmosphere, plus the Schiaparelli lander, an entry probe that will attempt to achieve Europe’s first successful landing on the red planet.


A convoy carrying the two Mars-bound components of the ExoMars 2016 mission, plus a load of ground support equipment, left the Thales Alenia Space factory in Cannes, France, on Dec. 17 en route to Turin, Italy, where three Antonov An-124 cargo flights would take the hardware to Kazakhstan.


The three Antonov transport planes departed Turin-Casselle Airport on Dec. 18, Dec. 20 and Dec. 22, carrying equipment to help prepare ExoMars for launch, the Schiaparelli lander and the Trace Gas Orbiter, respectively.


The last shipment arrived at the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 23 after a customs check in Moscow, and ground crews unloaded the spacecraft containers into a clean room to start the launch campaign.



The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is loaded on an Antonov An-124 transport plane in Turin, Italy. Credit: Thales Alenia Space



One of the first tasks at the launch site will be to set up a temporary tent inside the satellite processing facility at Baikonur. The covering will ensure the Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli are free of contaminants, keeping with stringent “planetary protection” protocols aimed at safeguarding Mars from Earth microbes.


The Baikonur Cosmodrome currently does not have a facility that meets Western planetary protection requirements, according to Walter Cugno, ExoMars program director at Thales Alenia Space, the mission’s prime contractor.

more at the link...



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ExoMars 2016 Schiaparelli Module in Baikonur



Schiaparelli      ESA



On 14 March, the launch window opens for ExoMars 2016, ESA's next mission to Mars, composed of the Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli.


Last month, the two spacecraft left Thales Alenia Space in Cannes, France, where they had been for the final few months of assembly and testing, and headed towards the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.


With both now in Baikonur, preparations are under way for the launch on a Russian Proton rocket during a window that remains open until 25 March.


The 600 kg Schiaparelli pictured here being unpacked in a cleanroom in the cosmodrome will ride to Mars on the Trace Gas Orbiter. Three days before they reach the Red Planet, Schiaparelli will separate from the orbiter, which will then enter orbit for a five-year mission of studying atmospheric gases potentially linked to present-day biological or geological activity.


Schiaparelli will enter the atmosphere at 21 000 km/h and slow by aerobraking in the upper layers, then deploying a parachute, followed by liquid-propellant thrusters that will brake it to less than 5 km/h about 2 m above the surface.


At that moment, the thrusters will be switched off and it will drop to the ground, where the impact will be cushioned by its crushable structure.

Less than eight minutes will have elapsed between hitting the atmosphere and touching down in a region known as Meridiani Planum.


Scientific sensors on Schiaparelli will collect data on the atmosphere during entry and descent, and others will make local measurements at the landing site for a short period determined by its battery capacity.


Schiaparelli will remain a target for laser ranging from orbiters using its reflector.


The module is named in honour of the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, who mapped the Red Planet's surface features in the 19th century.




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Proton to lift key space mission of 2016



The ExoMars 2016 spacecraft - the Trace Gas Orbiter (in the background) and the Schiaparelli lander (in the center) - in a clean room inside Facility 92A-50 in Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 25, 2015.



The Proton's launch campaign in 2016 will open with a liftoff on January 28. Along with the delivery of the Eutelsat-9B communications satellite, the flight will be the final qualification for the Proton-M rocket and its Briz-M upper stage, before a similar vehicle lifts the historic ExoMars-2016 mission on its journey to Mars. Several Proton launches at the end of 2015, showed increasingly accurate performance of the Briz-M in delivery of its payloads to orbit -- a welcome news for the ExoMars team.


Limited by the relative positions of the Earth and Mars, the launch window for the ExoMars-2016 extends from March 14 to March 25 only. The window will not re-open until around two years later.




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Exomars. Works in the MIK.

video is 3:57 min.



Published on Jan 11, 2016
Baikonur in the assembly and test complex (MIC) to continue to prepare for the launch of the Russian-European interplanetary station "exomars." The launch is scheduled from Baikonur 14 March 2016.





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Money troubles may delay Europe-Russia Mars mission



Part of a joint European-Russian mission to search for signs of life on Mars may be delayed due to cash flow problems, the European Space Agency said Friday.


"We need some more money," ESA director general Jan Woerner told journalists in Paris, citing project cost increases.

The ExoMars project is scheduled to kick off in March this year with the launch of an orbiter, due to arrive at the Red Planet six months later.


The second part entails the planned launch of a rover in 2018, to touch down the following year.

But the timeframe for the second leg has become "a challenge", said Woerner.


"So far, we are still planning to have the 2016 mission, as I said... and we will have the 2018 mission later on.


"If we cannot get the (20)18 mission on time, this is not as dramatic as it sounds," he said, and would mean a two-year delay.

Woerner said he did not know how much money was needed, but the amount would be revealed to ESA's member nations "very soon".


The mission's objective is to search for signs of Martian life -- past or present.

The orbiter will seek to detect atmospheric traces of methane and other gases that would point to the existence of microbes.


The rover, in turn, will drive over the Red Planet in search of organic matter -- drilling up to two metres deep for samples and analysing them on site.

"It's a thrill. It's really a very nice opportunity to see whether we find some organic material down in the soil or whatever is there," said Woerner.

"I hope that everything goes well and that we will have this rover on Mars either in 2018, preferably, or later on. But it's important because then we can say more about what is happening on Mars, or what happened on Mars."


ESA has a total budget of 5.25 billion euros ($5.75 billion) for 2016, up from 4.4 billion euros the previous year.


Woerner defended the money spent on space exploration.

"I hate this defensive position we always have to take, therefore I would like to tell you space is not expensive. Space is very cheap."


ESA's space programmes cost the equivalent of 10 litres of petrol per European citizen per year, satellite navigation about one beer per person, and human space flight about one metro ticket per person per year, he said.



The first part will launch on time, then they can play politics for the second half...a bargain for science on Mars.



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Yep. Space budgets have been constantly getting short-changed for decades, and politicians keep using it as a bagaining chip as if it were some kind of grand "poker game". It's disgusting and needs to stop.

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Thales Alenia Space to supply reaction control subsystem for ExoMars



Thales Alenia Space-UK are pleased to announce that they have been selected to supply a crucial subsystem, the Reaction Control Subsystem, for the Carrier Module of the ExoMars 2018 mission.


The ExoMars 2018 mission is part of the European Space Agency's ExoMars Programme in Cooperation with ROSCOMOS (the Russian Space Agency). Thales Alenia Space Italy is the Prime Contractor of the ESA industrial team.


The mission will deliver a European Rover and a Russian surface platform to the Martian surface to perform exploration of the planet's subsurface and atmosphere, and to search for signs of life.


The Rover and surface platform arrive at Mars inside the Russian Descent Module which is delivered to the Red Planet by the Carrier Module spacecraft. Thales Alenia Space-UK will be responsible for the Reaction Control Subsystem (RCS) in the Carrier Module, performing the design and engineering activities.


A mono-propellant propulsion subsystem will be developed, and it constitutes a critical part of the mission; it is required for implementing attitude and trajectory maneuvers of the Carrier Module spacecraft to ensure it reaches its target precisely, allowing the Descent Module to be delivered accurately to the Red Planet.


Thales Alenia Space-UK are pleased to be working alongside our colleagues in Thales Alenia Space-France, who will assemble and test the RCS module, and our customer, OHB, who are leading the development and integration of the Carrier Module.


The engineering efforts will be achieved in close cooperation between the companies in order to develop the system inside an aggressive timescale to meet the mission launch window.


This is the first contract for Thales Alenia Space-UK to deliver a propulsion subsystem for an ESA-led mission.


It is an important step for the company who are building a Propulsion Centre at the established Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire. This program complements existing engineering activities already occurring within TAS-UK which include Electric Propulsion and Chemical established Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire.




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Video: Launching ExoMars 2016 To Mars



This animation visualises milestones during the launch of the ExoMars 2016 mission and its cruise to Mars.

The mission comprises the Trace Gas Orbiter and an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, which are scheduled to be launched on a four-stage Proton-M/Breeze-M rocket from Baikonur during the 14-25 March 2016 window. About ten-and-a-half hours after launch, the spacecraft will separate from the rocket and deploy its solar wings. Two weeks later, its high-gain antenna will be deployed.

After a seven-month cruise to Mars, Schiaparelli will separate from TGO on 16 October. Three days later it will enter the martian atmosphere, while TGO begins its entry into Mars orbit.
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ExoMars 2016: launch to Mars

video is 2:34 min.





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ExoMars orbiter and lander mated for final time



European technicians working at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan have bolted an Italian-built Mars lander to its mothership ahead of a March 14 launch toward the red planet.


The attachment is a major step in preparations for next month’s launch the European Space Agency’s first mission to Mars since 2003, and the first of two flights for the agency’s ExoMars program, to be followed in 2018 or 2020 by the launch of an ambitious European rover to the red planet.


The ExoMars mission’s Trace Gas Orbiter, a large spacecraft with instruments probe the Martian atmosphere, will blast off with the Schiaparelli lander, which will try to become the first European platform to successfully operate on Mars.


The touchdown attempt in October will come nearly 13 years after Britain’s Beagle 2 lander was lost on decent to Mars in 2003.


Officials spotted Beagle 2 in imagery from NASA’s Reconnaissance Orbiter more than a decade later, showing the probe apparently intact on the Martian surface. Engineers who analyzed the images believe the lander’s solar arrays failed to unfurl properly, blocking Beagle 2’s antenna from radioing its status to Earth.


Schiaparelli is a larger, more technologically savvy spacecraft, fitted with advanced avionics, rocket thrusters, a guidance radar, and a European-made supersonic parachute.


Engineers transported the two ExoMars spacecraft from Turin, Italy, to Kazakhstan in December, and ground crews have worked on the orbiter and lander modules separately since they arrived at the launch base.


Uniting the Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli

video is 1:16 min






A technician working near the Schiaparelli lander wears a protective suit after fueling of the spacecraft with hazardous hydrazine fuel. Credit: Thales Alenia Space



The 600-kilogram (1,322-pound) Schiaparelli lander was hoisted atop the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter on Feb. 12. Credit: ESA – B. Bethge



A close-up view of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and its high-gain antenna (center). The Schiaparelli lander is visible attached to the top of the orbiter. Credit: ESA – B. Bethge


more at the link....




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Schiaparelli to make Europe's second Mars landing attempt



An artist rendering of the Schiaparelli lander on the surface of Mars.      ESA



The Schiaparelli lander (previously known as Entry Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module, EDM) will be only the second European attempt to land on Mars after the ill-fated mission of the Beagle-2 lander which disappeared on the surface of the Red Planet after a seemingly normal separation from the Mars Express orbiter on Dec. 25, 2003. For the new attempt within the ExoMars-2016 project, the European Space Agency, ESA, funded the development of the 600-kilogram disc-shaped test vehicle with a primary goal of learning to land on Mars.



Schiaparelli lander platform and its payloads. Credit: ESA



EDM concept

According to ESA, the ExoMars-2016 descent module builds on a heritage of designs that have been evaluated and tested by the agency during earlier ExoMars studies. They include a special material for thermal protection, a parachute system, a radar Doppler altimeter system and liquid-propellant braking engines. The module accommodates a series of sensors that will monitor the behavior of all key technologies of landing. The data will be sent back to Earth for post-flight reconstruction in support of future European missions to Mars, ESA said.


On November 8, 2013, the agency announced that the EDM lander would be named Schiaparelli, after the 19th-century astronomer Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli, who produced some of the best contemporary maps of Mars, even though his name primarily associated in popular literature with his "discovery" of "canals" on the planet in 1877.


Although the official primary goal of the Schiaparelli lander is to acquire know-how for landing on Mars, it is not entirely clear how exactly this experience could be applied. The follow-on ExoMars-2018 lander currently built in Russia for the joint European-Russian project is considered to be too large, too different and too far in development to expect any major lessons from Schiaparelli, industry sources said. In addition, the atmospheric entry technologies and related avionics have direct military applications, for example in warheads of ballistic missiles, and their transfer between Europe and Russia might present some political pitfalls, sources said.



Schiaparelli landing sequence. Credit: ESA



During the seven-month cruise between the two planets, the lander will be in hibernation mode to save very limited power of its small batteries. The battery capacity will be the main limiting factor for the life span of the spacecraft on the surface of Mars.


Schiaparelli will separate from the TGO orbiter on October 16, 2016, three days before reaching surface of Mars. The disk-shaped lander will spin for stability. On October 19, the lander will be activated few hours before encountering the discernable atmosphere of Mars at an altitude of 122.5 kilometers and a speed of 21,000 kilometers per hour (5.8 kilometers per second).


Initial deceleration from Mach 35 to Mach 5 will be achieved thanks to aerodynamic braking with a disk-shaped heat shield, which is expected to heat up to 1,500 degrees Celsius. To withstand the heating, the shield is covered with an ablative material known as Norcoat Liege.


At an altitude of around 11 kilometers and a speed of 1,650 kilometers per hour (Mach 2), a 12-meter supersonic parachute made out of nylon fabric and held by Kevlar lines will be deployed with a help of mortar to reduce speed below supersonic. The parachute's so-called disk-gap-band canopy will unfurl in less than a second to a length of 27 meters, and, 40 seconds later, allowing for oscillations to die down, the front shield of the aeroshell will be jettisoned at an altitude of seven kilometers.

Schiaparelli will then activate its Doppler radar altimeter and velocimeter to locate its position with respect to the Martian surface by measuring distance and speed relative to the surface.


As soon as the sensors show that the spacecraft is 1.3 or 1.2 kilometers from the surface, the back shield of the lander will be dropped along with the parachute, as the spacecraft zooms toward the surface at a speed of between 250 and 270 kilometers per hour.


Finally, three clusters of hydrazine engines with three engines each will fire in pulse mode to reduce the descent speed to just 15 kilometers per hour around two meters from the surface. At that moment, the engines will be cut off.


The final shock of the free fall at around 11 kilometers per hour will be cushioned by a crushable structure built into module. The entire deceleration process will be completed in around six minutes over a distance of approximately 700 kilometers. The touchdown is expected at 15:48 GMT.

The lander's Descent Camera, known as DeCa, should capture the drama, looking down over the edge of the lander platform.



Schiaparelli landing site on the global map of Mars relative to previous successful landers. Credit: ESA



Surface instruments


The Schiaparelli lander carries a small science payload, called DREAMS, which stands for Dust Characterization, Risk Assessment and Environment Analyzer on the Martian Surface. The package is designed to study Martian environment and consists of several sensors:


MetWind to measure the local wind speed and direction;
DREAMS-H to monitor humidity;
DREAMS-P to register pressure;
MarsTem to measure atmospheric temperature near the surface;
The Solar Irradiance Sensor, SIS, to measure the transparency of the atmosphere;
The Atmospheric Radiation and Electricity Sensor, MicroARES, to measure atmospheric electric fields on Mars.

The payload is expected to operate on the surface of Mars from two to eight sols.


In addition, a tiny set of laser retro-reflectors was attached almost at the last minute in the development of Schiaparelli to its the zenith-facing surface. The reflectors do not require any power and could be used in the future as a target for Mars orbiters to laser-locate the module.



Schiaparelli payloads. Credit: ESA



EDM specifications, according to ESA and Thales Alenia Space:

Schiaparelli lander mass
600 kilograms
Schiaparelli lander diameter
2.4 meters
Nose radius
0.6 meters
Ref ballistic factor
77.86 kilograms per square meter
Parachute diameter
12 meters
Individual engine thrust
400 newtons
Lander mass on the Martian surface
280 kilograms


Known EDM developers:

Company Responsibility
Thales Alenia Space, France System integrator
Astrium (Airbus), Germany CHT-400 engines
Aerosekur, Italy Parachutes
GD-OTS, US Parachute deployment system
Mu Space, US Pressure regulator
Bradford, Netherlands Valves
Rafael, Israel Propellant tanks
ATK, USA Pressurization tank
Astrium (Airbus), France Heat shield
Sener, Spain Lander platform structure, Front heat shield separation system



March 14Proton • ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter
Launch time: 0931 GMT (5:31 a.m. EDT)
Launch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
A Russian government Proton rocket with a Breeze M upper stage will deploy the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. The mission will make improved measurements of trace gases in the Martian atmosphere, such as methane, which could be an indicator of biological activity. ESA’s Schiaparelli lander will accompany the Trace Gas Orbiter to Mars. Delayed from Jan. 7. [Jan. 4]




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Trace Gas Orbiter might help unlock mysteries of Mars



The centerpiece of the ExoMars-2016 project is the nearly 3.4-ton spacecraft designated Trace Gas Orbiter, TGO. After releasing a small probe to the surface of Mars, the TGO should enter orbit around the Red Planet to help answer some of the most intriguing questions about this alien world. The orbiter will scan martian atmosphere for traces of various gasses including methane, which could reveal biological activity on the planet. Designed to operate until at least 2022, the TGO can also relay communications to Earth from its lander and from the follow-on ExoMars-2018 rover designed to search for signs of life on Mars.



The Trace Gas Orbiter, TGO, spacecraft shown in its fully deployed configuration during the cruise flight between the Earth and Mars, with the Schiaparelli lander still attached (right) Credit: ESA.



TGO design

The TGO measures approximately 3.5 meters high and two meters across. It is built around a central cylinder serving as a structural backbone designed to evenly distribute loads experienced during launch throughout the rest of the spacecraft. The cylinder extends all the way to the top of the spacecraft, providing a base for the attachment of the 600-kilogram Schiaparelli lander.


Four scientific instruments with a total mass of 135.6 kilograms were mounted on two horizontal panels crossing the orbiter's main structure above and below the navigational star trackers. Such an arrangement aimed to ensure best alignment of the instruments with the trackers, even when severe temperature swings in space cause minute shifts in the spacecraft's structural shape.


The lower service section of the orbiter houses the majority of support systems not directly involved in scientific investigations.


To adjust trajectory on its way to Mars and to easy itself into the planet's orbit, the spacecraft was equipped with a 424-newton main engine. For high-accuracy attitude control, the TGO has 10 primary small thrusters and 10 backup thrusters. All engines burn mixed oxides of nitrogen as oxidizer and monomethylhydrazine as fuel. The spacecraft has one fuel tank and one oxidizer tank, each with a capacity of 1,207 liters.


A pair of two-section solar panels spanning 17.5 meters when fully unfolded can provide 2,000 watts of power to all onboard systems. Each section of the panel is 3.12 meters long and 1.74 meters wide, making an individual array 7.92 meters long.


For the TGO, solar arrays are the only source of electricity, which can be stored in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. They will come handy each time the spacecraft flies over the night side of Mars, with the planet eclipsing the Sun. The batteries are able to output around 5,100 watts per hour.

While in transit between the Earth and Mars, the solar arrays will also charge Schiaparelli's rechargeable battery to spare the lander's primary non-rechargeable battery for the operation on the surface of Mars.


The Power Conditioning Unit, PCU, onboard the orbiter is responsible for taking electrical power generated by solar arrays and making it suitable for charging the spacecraft's batteries and powering the payloads. The Power Control and Distribution Unit, PCDU, routes the flow of electricity to all of the spacecraft's subsystems.


All the communications between the spacecraft and mission control will be possible via the 2.2-meter, 65-watt high-gain antenna dish operating in X-band and attached to the service module. In addition, a NASA-provided UHF-transceivers with a single helix antenna will be used to communicate with rovers and landers on the surface of Mars.


The computer brain of the TGO orbiter is known as the Spacecraft Management Unit, SMU.


The TGO spacecraft was assembled at the Cannes facility of the Thales Alenia Space, France, with OHB Systems of Bremen, Germany, serving as the project's co-prime contractor, which built the spacecraft structure, thermal control and propulsion systems.


The TGO/Schiaparelli combination will be launched on a Proton-M rocket with a Briz-M upper stage from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Schiaparelli lander will separate on October 16, 2016, three days before reaching Mars.


Around 12 hours after dropping the lander, the TGO will make a trajectory correction to avoid entering the atmosphere of Mars but rather entering orbit around the planet.


and entering orbit around the planet three days later, the TGO spacecraft will maneuver to a final orbit for scientific research. It has a capability to orient itself along all three axis to point its instruments at the surface of the planet.


Although ExoMars is a European-led mission, for the Russian scientists, it is the first chance in years for reviving the nation's planetary exploration program.



Science payload: Probing methane mystery

The TGO orbiter will carry four scientific instruments, two of which were built in Europe and another pair was supplied by Moscow-based Space Research Institute, IKI.


The primary goal of the instruments is to map the distribution of the methane gas on Mars, which was first detected by Europe's Mars Express orbiter in 2004. NASA's Curiosity rover later confirmed the findings. The exact origin of the chemical is unknown, while both biological and non-biological sources of methane on Mars have been hypothesized. However on Earth, methane is produced almost entirely through biological activity with only tiny addition from volcanic and hydrothermal events. In any case, due to a relatively short life span of methane in geological terms, its detection on Mars hints the existence of a very recent source. Hopefully, instruments on the TGO will help to resolve the mystery of the Martian methane.


The TGO will be able to sniff very small concentrations of gases, making up less than one percent of the atmospheric mixture. The instruments will focus on hydrocarbons and sulphur, some of which could be signatures of active biological or geological processes, at present or in the past.



Science instruments on the TGO orbiter of the ExoMars-2016 mission. Credit: ESA



TGO instruments overview:

Principal investigator/developer
Atmospheric Chemistry Suite, ACS
Three infrared spectrometers to investigate the chemistry, aerosols, and structure of the atmosphere.
Oleg Korablev, Space
Research Institute, Moscow, Russia
Color and Stereo Surface Imaging System, CaSSIS
High-resolution camera for obtaining color and stereo images.
Nicolas Thomas, University of Bern, Switzerland.
Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector, FREND
Neutron detector to map surface hydrogen.
Igor Mitrofanov, Space Research Institute, IKI, Moscow, Russia
Nadir and Occultation for Mars Discovery, NOMAD
Three spectrometers, two infrared and one ultraviolet, to perform high-sensitivity
orbital identification of atmospheric components, including methane
Ann Carine Vandaele, Belgian
Institute for Space Aeronomy, Brussels, Belgium

Color and Stereo Surface Imaging System, CaSSIS

The high-resolution camera capturing details up to five meters per pixel will obtain color and stereo images of the martian surface covering a wide swath. It will provide the geological and dynamic context for sources of trace gases detected by NOMAD and ACS.

Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector, FREND

The instrument will map distribution of hydrogen down to a meter deep, making it possible to reveal deposits of water-ice near the surface. FREND’s mapping of shallow subsurface water-ice promised to be up to 10 times better than previous measurements.

Nadir and Occultation for Mars Discovery, NOMAD

NOMAD combines three spectrometers, two infrared and one ultraviolet, to perform high-sensitivity orbital identification of atmospheric components, including methane and many others. It will capture data either via solar occultation or by looking straight down at the surface (at nadir) for a reflected light.

Atmospheric Chemistry Suite, ACS

ACS is a suite of three infrared spectrometers to investigate the chemistry, aerosols and structure of the atmosphere. ACS will complement NOMAD by extending the coverage at infrared wavelengths.

Components of the ACS suite (as of 2012):

Instrument Purpose
Fourier spectrometer, ACS-TIR Temperature, aerosol measurements
Near-infrared Echelle spectrometer, ACS-NIR Measurement of vertical profile of CO, water, oxygen, night glow registration
Mid-infrared Echelle spectrometer, ACS-MIR Measurement of methane, aerosols


Methane concentrations on Mars.     ESA





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Encapsulating ExoMars For Launch



ExoMars                     ESA



With less than two weeks until the launch of ExoMars 2016, preparations are proceeding well and the spacecraft composite has now been encapsulated within the launcher fairing at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.


Earlier this week the spacecraft composite, comprised of the Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli, was mated with the launch vehicle adapter and installed on top of the Breeze upper stage. Yesterday, 2 March, the Breeze upper stage and spacecraft were encapsulated together within the two fairing halves. Prior to the encapsulation, they were tilted horizontally and the first fairing half was rolled underneath the spacecraft and Breeze, on a track inside the cleanroom. The second fairing half was then lowered into place by means of an overhead crane, encapsulating the payload.



This is an article full of ExoMars images this last week...





Date: 02 March 2016
Satellite: Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli
Location: Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Copyright: ESA - B. Bethge



The ExoMars 2016 spacecraft composite, comprised of the Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli, seen during the final stages of encapsulation within the launcher fairing.

The first half of the fairing had already been rolled into place underneath the spacecraft, and the second fairing half is being lowered into place by means of an overhead crane.




How ExoMars-2016 will be launched



The launch scenario for the ExoMars-2016 mission.



Not a routine mission

The launch of the ExoMars-2016 spacecraft will be Proton's first "interplanetary" assignment in almost two decades. During its previous attempt in November 1996, Proton's upper stage failed, sending the precious Mars-96 spacecraft to a fiery desmise in the Earth's atmosphere and effectively stalling Russia's planetary exploration program for a generation. For the latest mission, the Proton-M variant was equipped with the Briz-M upper stage, which has never been used for deep-space launches. Although the first 10 minutes of the ascent into space will be largely routine, Briz-M's task to send the probe from Earth's parking orbit to its escape trajectory toward Mars will be significantly different from the space tug's typical mission to place satellites into geostationary orbits.


Like on Briz-M's most trips, the final push to leave the initial parking orbit around the Earth had to be split into multiple firings due to the low thrust of the space tug's main engine. As a result, the stage will have to make two progressively stretched loops around the Earth, before the fourth firing enables the mission to finally break the chains of the Earth's gravity and begin its trek to Mars some 10.5 hours after liftoff, or around an hour later than on routine commercial missions.


Although widely practiced in space flight, such a multi-maneuver scenario has its drawbacks. The more firings the space tug makes, the more navigational errors might affect its final flight path. In addition, the extra time needed for maneuvers increases chances for potential problems to spring up such as overheating and leaks. Fortunately, Briz-M has consistently shown improving performance during the latest Proton missions in 2015 and 2016.


The launch window for the ExoMars mission remains open from March 14 until March 25, 2016, however the exact launch time will drift back slightly every day the launch is delayed. The duration of the escape maneuvers from the Earth's orbit will also have minor fluctuations within the window. Finally, lighting conditions for the spacecraft in orbit will vary slightly as well. Illumination by the Sun is critically important for the power balance onboard ExoMars, which depends entirely on solar panels.



Anatomy of ExoMars ascent


The liftoff of the Proton-M rocket with a Briz-M upper stage is scheduled on March 14, 2016, at 12:31:42 Moscow Time (9:31 GMT, 4:31 a.m. EST) from Pad 39 at Site 200 in Baikonur Cosmodrome. The launch vehicle will be carrying the Trace Gas Orbiter, TGO, and the Schiaparelli lander for the ExoMars-2016 project.


During the initial phase of the powered flight, the three booster stages of the Proton rocket will follow a standard flight path to match an orbit with an inclination 51.55 degrees toward the Equator. The first stage propelled by six engines will separate around two minutes into the flight, followed by the second stage five and a half minutes after launch.


The payload fairing will split in two halves and drop off five minutes 45 seconds into the flight, during the operation of the third stage.


Nine minutes 42 seconds after launch, the Briz-M upper stage with the TGO/Schiaparelli combo will separate from the third stage of the launch vehicle, still flying on a ballistic suborbital trajectory. One minute 34-seconds after separation, Briz-M will fire its engine for the first time over Siberia. The maneuver lasting nearly four and a half minutes will insert the stack into an initial parking orbit.


The spacecraft will then fly passively for more than an hour, almost completing a revolution around the Earth before restarting its engine over Southern Russia. The maneuver extending over most of Asia will push the spacecraft into an intermediate elliptical (egg-shaped) orbit. The spacecraft will pass an apogee (highest point) over the Pacific Ocean around three hours after launch and will then begin accelerating back toward its home planet for another hour.


Around four hours into the flight, as the vehicle crosses the coast of Portugal, Briz-M will initiate its third firing. This time, the maneuver will send the stack into a transfer orbit. Shortly after completing the third firing, Briz-M will jettison its doughnut-shaped external tank.


To reach its new much higher apogee, Briz-M with ExoMars will coast passively for nearly three hours until the Earth's gravity pulls it back yet again.

Finally, more than 10 hours after leaving Baikonur, Briz-M will initiate its fourth and final engine firing to break itself from the Earth's gravitational field and enter a Mars-bound trajectory. The maneuver will be taking place, while the spacecraft crosses the Great Lakes, Eastern Canada and the Atlantic Ocean. Less than 14 minutes later, the TGO/Schiaparelli stack will separate from the Briz-M upper stage more than 5,000 kilometers away from Earth.


The nearly empty upper stage will then perform two small braking maneuvers to make sure it never crosses path with its former passengers.

In the meantime, the TGO spacecraft should attain a stable orientation relative to the Sun and begin the deployment of its two solar panels. The deployment of the high-gain antenna is expected within first 24 hours after launch, however its use is not expected until more than two weeks after launch.


According to ESA, the 4.3-ton TGO/Schiaparelli stack would be the heaviest spacecraft launched on a path to Mars, however the claim probably counts only successful missions. The ill-fated Mars-96 and Phobos-Grunt probes, which never left the Earth's orbit, had a mass of 6.8 and 13.5 tons respectively.




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Assembly complete for ExoMars’ Proton launcher



Ground teams pose for a picture with the fully assembled Proton rocket with the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander. Credit: Khrunichev



Europe’s ExoMars orbiter, due to begin a seven-month journey to the red planet March 14, has met its Russian Proton rocket booster as launch preparations enter the final stages at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.


Technicians from Khrunichev, the Proton’s manufacturer, oversaw the connection of the ExoMars spacecraft and its Breeze M stage with the core of the Proton rocket Saturday.


The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and its piggyback Schiaparelli landing probe were transported with the Breeze M to the Proton integration hall at Baikonur, then engineers from Thales Alenia Space, ExoMars’ prime contractor, conducted electrical tests to verify the health of the spacecraft.


The video below shows the enclosure of the ExoMars spacecraft and the Breeze M upper stage inside the Proton rocket’s payload fairing last week.


ExoMars 2016: Fairing encapsulation

video is 3:58 min., good video of horizontal encapsulation.






The Proton rocket should reach the launch pad Friday after rolling out on a specialized railroad car and being lifted vertical atop the launch mount at Baikonur.



The ExoMars orbiter and lander are transported inside the Proton rocket’s payload fairing to an assembly building to meet the rocket. Credit: Thales Alenia Space – G.Passarelli



Ground crews attach the ExoMars spacecraft with the Proton rocket. Credit: ESA – B. Bethge


more at the link...



Can't wait for this mission to start...back to Mars with new toys....:D

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March 14Proton • ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter
Launch time: 0931 GMT (5:31 a.m. EDT)
Launch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
A Russian government Proton rocket with a Breeze M upper stage will deploy the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. The mission will make improved measurements of trace gases in the Martian atmosphere, such as methane, which could be an indicator of biological activity. ESA’s Schiaparelli lander will accompany the Trace Gas Orbiter to Mars. Delayed from Jan. 7. [Jan. 4]




Proton rocket reaches launch pad with Mars probe



A Russian Proton rocket rolled out to its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday, riding a specially-built rail car with Europe’s ExoMars mission bound for the red planet.


The ExoMars spacecraft, comprising a European-built orbiter and lander, is the only mission launching to Mars this year, scheduled for blastoff at 0931:42 GMT (5:31:42 a.m. EDT) Monday.


Once the rocket arrived at Complex 200, Russian technicians used a hydraulic lift to rotate the 191-foot-tall (58-meter) rocket vertical. Mobile servicing platforms moved into place around the rocket for ground crews to complete final preflight checks on the booster.


The Proton spent two days at a fueling barn, where the rocket’s Breeze M upper stage received a mix of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants. The Proton rocket’s core booster, made of three stages, will receive its load of hypergolic propellants at the launch pad.

The Proton/Breeze M combination has never been used to launch a mission to Mars before.


The three-stage Proton rocket will complete its job in less than 10 minutes, deploying the Breeze M upper stage to conduct four main engine firings over 10-and-a-half hours before releasing the European Space Agency’s ExoMars spacecraft at 2012 GMT (4:12 p.m. EDT).


Then the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, carrying a camera and instruments to study gases in the Martian atmosphere, will unfurl its solar arrays to start recharging the spacecraft’s battery.


The mission’s interplanetary journey will take more than seven months, with arrival at Mars pegged for Oct. 19.



There is also a good group of images at the above link....


ExoMars 2016 rollout

video is 4:33 min.





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March 14Proton • ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter
Launch time: 0931 GMT (5:31 a.m. EDT)
Launch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
A Russian government Proton rocket with a Breeze M upper stage will deploy the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. The mission will make improved measurements of trace gases in the Martian atmosphere, such as methane, which could be an indicator of biological activity. ESA’s Schiaparelli lander will accompany the Trace Gas Orbiter to Mars. Delayed from Jan. 7. [Jan. 4]



Watch ExoMars Launch Live on Monday



Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli mated to Breeze upper stage. (Credit: ESA – B. Bethge)



PARIS (ESA PR) — Livestreaming of the ExoMars launch will begin on 14 March at 08:30 GMT (09:30 CET). Regular text updates will be provided here.

Launch is scheduled for 09:31 GMT (10:31 CET) on 14 March with first acquisition of signal expected at around 21:29 GMT (22:29 CET).


Follow @ESA_ExoMars, @esaoperations and @esascience on twitter for additional #ExoMars coverage. Once mission controllers have established contact with TGO following acquisition of signal, the @ESA_TGO Twitter account will become active.


Provisional schedule

08:30 GMT / 09:30 CET Morning programme, including live launch coverage

11:00 GMT / 12:00 CET Afternoon programme, including regular live updates on the status of the mission, a series of dedicated presentations on the scientific goals and operational challenges and milestones of the ExoMars missions, and informal question and answer sessions

21:10 GMT / 22:10 CET Evening programme, including confirmation of spacecraft separation, solar array deployment and first acquisition of signal

21:45 GMT /22:45 CET End of event







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Live coverage: Proton rocket readied for launch to Mars



Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a Proton rocket with Europe’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator module to Mars. 



Final launch preparations at the Baikonur Cosmodrome include fueling of the three-stage Proton rocket with its toxic mix of liquid hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants, and testing of telemetry links between the launcher and ground tracking sites around the world.

Launch remains set for exactly 0931:42 GMT (5:31:42 a.m. EDT; 3:31:42 p.m. local time at Baikonur).


The European Space Agency reports the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter's batteries are now charged for flight. The batteries will power the spacecraft from liftoff through spacecraft separation, a critical milestone expected 10 hours, 41 minutes, after launch.

The orbiter will unfurl its power-generating solar panels after separating from the Proton rocket's Breeze M upper stage. The solar panels are expected to deploy around 2142 GMT (5:42 p.m. EDT), more than 12 hours after liftoff.

Live coverage and updates at this link...



5 hours to go from this post.....:D

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I'm hoping the bad luck ends....SpaceX could use the methane data from this one.....:D

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      by Chandrakant Isi

      Zhurong rover, which is a part of China's Tianwen-1 mission, landed on Mars on May 14. This 240-kilogram rover has been exploring the Utopia Planitia plain after it was deployed on May 21. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has been regularly posting updates of this mission, but today it dropped a video along with the sounds from Mars.

      The footage starts with the lander's entry into the Martian atmosphere aided by a supersonic parachute. It is then, followed by the separation, and finally the powered landing. The next part of the video shows Zhurong rover's descend from the lander. You also get to hear the sound coming from the friction between Zhurong's wheels and the Martian surface. The equipment used for picking up this audio will later come in handy to analyze Martian winds.

      To study the Martian geology and topography, the rover is loaded with spectroscopy instruments, cameras, ground-penetrating radar, and a magnetometer. The data sent by the rover, including this latest video, gets relayed via the Tianwen-1 orbiter. Due to the vast distance of millions of miles between the Earth and Mars, the data transfer rates are painfully slow.

      With the Tianwen-1 mission, China has become the second nation after the US, to soft-land a rover on Mars. The information gathered from this mission will be crucial for China's future space missions. According to the Chinese state-run media Global Times and CGTN (earlier known as CCTV), the country is planning to launch its first crewed mission to Mars in 2033.

      Source: SpaceNews.com

    • By Usama Jawad96
      Microsoft announces Project Acoustics 2.0 with faster bake times, dynamic openings, and more
      by Usama Jawad

      Project Acoustics is Microsoft's wave-based simulation engine to introduce immersive acoustics in 3D environments such as those offered by a game or a mixed reality experience. It emulates wave effects like occlusion and obstruction without having to rely on hardware-intensive ray-tracing capabilities. As of now, it supports deployment to Windows, Xbox, Android, and macOS as runtime platforms and integrates with game engines like Unity and Unreal.

      Today, Microsoft has announced version 2.0 of Project Acoustics.

      The new release of Project Acoustics packs several Unreal- and Unity-specific features. On Unreal, dynamic openings are supported which form a geometrical mesh of the environment on runtime to simulate acoustics accordingly. Apart from relying on auto-generated probes, you can also manually plant your own in 3D environments. You can even set the volume of pre-generated probes for individual regions. Having more probes would mean more accurate acoustics but would obviously result in more bake time as well. Furthermore, you can utilize the "material override" option to manually set the absorption coefficient for all materials in a region.

      On the Unity side, the only specific feature that has been highlighted is support for Wwise integration for Unity. Overall, Microsoft has noted that bake times will be twice as fast compared to the previous version and that the new release also contains several bug fixes.

      If you're interested in trying out Project Acoustics 2.0, head over to the dedicated page here. The engine supports Windows and macOS as editor platforms right now, but the latter has plugins available for Unity only.

    • By zikalify
      China successfully lands its Zhurong Mars rover
      by Paul Hill

      The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has successfully landed its Zhurong rover on the Martian surface, according to a report from BBC News. During its 90 Sol mission at Utopia Planitia in the northern hemisphere, Zhurong will study Martian geology using a laser tool that can assess a rock’s chemistry and search for sub-surface water-ice.

      While China and the United States may be squabbling over 5G, NASA had much more cordial words for China with regards to its landing. Thomas Zurbuchen, head of science at NASA, said:

      According to Xinhua, the Zhurong rover touched down on the Martian surface on Saturday at 7:18 a.m. Beijing Time. The landing was all pre-programmed by CNSA due to the communication time lag between the Earth and Mars. To establish the success of the mission, the rover unfurled its solar panels and antenna and sent a signal back to Earth to indicate that it had survived the landing – this process took over an hour and included the Mars to Earth delay of 17 minutes.

      With the successful landing, China becomes the second country in the world to land a rover on the Martian surface. Since the 1960s, only half of the 40 Mars missions have succeeded and this rate drops further when it comes to landing on the surface of the planet. The last few weeks have been very good for China’s space ambitions; a few weeks ago, it launched its space station which will eventually be manned by taikonauts.

    • By indospot
      ESA announces details of its online E3 experience, open to everyone
      by João Carrasqueira

      After skipping out on a show last year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is bringing E3 back this year as an all-digital event. Today, the organization shared some more details of how the experience will work for fans and members of the media, going over the aspects of its online portal and mobile app.

      These two access points will be the hub for everything happening at E3, for both media and the general public, but the experience will be different for each type of attendee. Those with media accreditation will be able to access the portal/app from June 7, a few days ahead of the official start of the event, and will allow members of the press to schedule meetings and communicate with companies to learn more about their announcements. Then, on June 12, when E3 officially starts, the general public will also be able to enter.

      The app will feature a number of sections for attendees to explore. First off, there will be exhibition booths from participating companies, featuring "special events", videos, and articles about the products shown off at the show. For the more social aspects of E3, there will also be lounges for users to gather in, and dedicated forums for discussion about different topics. Finally, there will be a leaderboards section that tries to "gamify" the experience and encourage attendees to participate as actively as possible. The app will also feature the main E3 broadcast, which includes publisher showcases, press conferences, panels, and so on.

      There's less than one month left for E3 to start, so it'll be interesting to see how successfully the event can transition to its online format, and how that might affect plans for future editions of the show. Participants for this year include big names such as Xbox, Nintendo, Ubisoft, Konami, Capcom, and more.

    • By zikalify
      NASA has delayed the Crew-2 Dragon mission to the ISS
      by Paul Hill

      Over the weekend when This Week in Rocket Launches #9 was published, it was planned that the Crew-2 Dragon mission carrying astronauts to the International Space Station would take place on Thursday, April 22. Due to unfavourable weather conditions along the flight path, NASA is now looking to launch the mission at 5:49 a.m. EDT on Friday, April 23.

      According to the new schedule, the crew is scheduled to dock at the space station just under 24 hours after launch at 5:10 a.m. on Saturday, April 24. The mission will be carrying four astronauts, namely NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA’s Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA’s Thomas Pesquet. Once they arrive, the ISS will be host to a large crew of 11 people.

      On Friday at 1:30 a.m. EDT, NASA Television will begin live launch coverage. This will be followed up at 7:30 a.m. with a press conference hosted by NASA’s Steve Jurczyk and Kathy Lueders, JAXA’s Hiroshi Sasaki, ESA’s Frank de Winne, and an unnamed representative from SpaceX.

      The docking, hatch opening, and welcoming ceremony will also be streamed live on Saturday at 5:10 a.m., 7:15 a.m., and 7:45 a.m. respectively. To prepare for the stream, be sure to head over to the NASA TV website and save it as a bookmark ready for the launch.