ExoMars 2016/2020 Data and Analysis (updates)


Recommended Posts

5 hours ago, DocM said:

I'm assuming our friends in Russia will do a proper series of parachute and lander drop tests... :whistle:

Probably at the same time they do the "Can I hammer that part in upside down" tests... ;)


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

Full Go-Ahead for building ExoMars 2020


The first ExoMars mission arrived at the Red Planet in October and now the second mission has been confirmed to complete its construction for a 2020 launch. 


ESA and Thales Alenia Space signed a contract today that secures the completion of the European elements of the next mission.


The main objective of the ExoMars programme is to address one of the most outstanding scientific questions of our time: is there, or has there ever been, life on Mars?


The Trace Gas Orbiter will soon be exploring this question from orbit: it will take a detailed inventory of trace gases, such as methane, that might be linked to biological or geological processes. The first test of the orbiter’s science instruments was recently completed.


It will also act as a communications relay for various craft – in particular for 2020’s rover and surface platform.


ESA’s rover will be the first capable of drilling 2 m into Mars, where ancient biomarkers may still be preserved from the harsh radiation environment on the surface.


The Russian platform will carry instruments focused on the local atmosphere and surroundings.

ExoMars is a joint endeavour between ESA and Roscosmos, with important contribution from NASA.


The contract signed in Rome, Italy, secures the completion of the European elements and the rigorous tests to prove they are ready for launch.


These include the rover itself, which will be accommodated within the Russian descent module, along with the carrier module for cruise and delivery to Mars.


ESA is also contributing important elements of the descent module, such as the parachute, radar, inertial measurement unit, UHF radio elements, and the onboard computer and software.


The science instruments for the rover and surface platform are funded by national agencies of ESA member states, Roscosmos and NASA following calls to the scientific community.


The structural models of the carrier and rover are expected to be delivered in January and February 2017, respectively, along with structural and thermal models of the various descent module elements.


“ExoMars is a cornerstone of ESA’s exploration programme,” says David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration. “Using its miniaturised life-search laboratory and advanced robotic technology, the mission will explore the Red Planet in search of new evidence to answer questions that have long fascinated humanity.


“Following the renewed support demonstrated by ESA member states in the recent Ministerial Council, this new contract allows us to complete the flight models of the European elements and keeps us on track for a July 2020 launch.”


“The steadfastness and tenacity of both the European and Italian space agencies has reassured all program partners, and enabled us to continue our production work so we can go ahead with this new and very complex mission,” says Donato Amoroso, Deputy CEO of Thales Alenia Space.


The landing site for the mission is still under consideration, with Oxia Planum a strong candidate. The target region shows evidence for a past wet environment that may have had suitable conditions for preserving ancient biosignatures. ESA and Roscosmos are expected to confirm the landing site around six months before launch.


Read the Thales Alenia Space press release on today’s event here.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...



# ExoMars : TGO engines successfully changed inclination devicehttp: // www. roscosmos.ru/23223/ .


Exomars. ENGINES TGO successfully change orbital inclination MACHINE



02.08.2017 13:51
Which engines series of maneuvers performed TGO device 19, 23 and 27 January, the machine changed the orbit inclination from 7 to 74 degrees. As a result of its plane, initially almost coincides with the equatorial and bent in such a way that the machine passed over the polar regions. It is this inclination will have the final working orbit with a height of about 400 km above the surface.
As explained in the European flight control center, three stages of the maneuver required to avoid the risk of collision with the planet.
The last operation on 5 February was made to reduce the periapsis of the orbit 250 to 210 km. Apocenter height was also reduced by about 2.5 times (up to 33 475 km) to the orbit period was equal to one Martian day.



Comparison of orbital inclinations TGO device up and began maneuvering to change the inclination (c) ESA / C. Carreau



"While apocentre high, turn orbit is easier, since the velocity vector rotates. The smaller, the less necessary impetus to its rate of rotation, - explains Nathan A. Eysmont, a leading researcher of the Department of Space dynamics and mathematical processing of information IKI. - When the vector is already rotated, you can begin to reduce the height apocenter. As a result, for example, an atmosphere of braking as this will make the TGO. But start with the four-day orbit would be too long to go to the circular. Therefore, a compromise was selected: first engine braking momentum in pericenter orbit with an inclination of 74 degrees it is already apocentre reduced to a value corresponding to the daily orbit (one hydrochloride), and then begins the process of reducing apocenter due to the impact of the atmosphere in the area pericenter ".
braking stage using the atmosphere to begin in mid-March and will last about 13 months. Prior to this, in early March, is scheduled for inclusion of scientific instruments for calibration on a new orbit.





Angling Up For Mars Science



ESA’s latest Mars orbiter has moved itself into a new path on its way to achieving the final orbit for probing the Red Planet.

The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter arrived last October on a multiyear mission to understand the tiny amounts of methane and other gases in the atmosphere that could be evidence for biological or geological activity.


In January, it conducted a series of crucial manoeuvres, firing its main engine to adjust its orbit around Mars.


The three firings shifted its angle of travel with respect to the equator to almost 74º from the 7º of its October arrival. This essentially raised the orbit from equatorial to being much more north–south.


The arrival orbit was set so that it could deliver the Schiaparelli lander to Meridiani Planum, near the equator, with good communications.


Once science observations begin next year, the new 74º orbit will provide optimum coverage of the surface for the instruments, while still offering good visibility for relaying data from current and future landers.



The change was achieved in three burns on 19, 23 and 27 January, overseen by the mission control team working at ESA’s operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany.


“The manoeuvres were performed using the main engine in three steps to avoid a possible situation where the spacecraft could end up on a collision course with Mars in case of any unexpected early termination or underperformance of the engine,” said spacecraft operations manager Peter Schmitz.


Peter notes the engine delivered very precise levels of thrust: “All three were completed to within just a few tenths of a percent of the target thrust, resulting in the craft’s orbital plane being off by just a few fractions of a degree, which is trivial.”


A final, minor trim was made on 5 February, at the same time lowering the altitude above Mars at closest approach from 250 km to 210 km.

Atmospheric drag

The inclination change was also a necessary step for the next challenge: a months-long ‘aerobraking’ campaign designed to bring the spacecraft to its near-circular final science orbit, at an altitude of around 400 km.


Mission controllers will command the craft to skim the wispy top of the atmosphere, generating a tiny amount of drag that will steadily pull it down.


The process is set to begin in mid-March, and is expected to take about 13 months.


ExoMars first year in orbit

video is 2:42 min.



Inclination change happens around the 1:05 mark in this animation


more at the link...




  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites



ESA Mars Orbiter completes Plane Change Maneuvers ahead of long Aerobraking Campaign






ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter completed a series of engine burns to shift its orbit around Mars toward a higher inclination in preparation for a lengthy altitude reduction campaign that will take the rest of the year and spiral the spacecraft down into its science orbit from where the orbiter can obtain a detailed inventory of the Martian atmosphere.


The Trace Gas Orbiter, TGO for short, arrived at Mars back in October after a half-year interplanetary cruise, firing its engine for nearly two and a half hours to hit the brakes in order to be captured in orbit around Mars. TGO’s critical orbit insertion maneuver was a complete success and ESA said the spacecraft achieved an orbit of 250 by 98,000 Kilometers, inclined seven degrees to either side of the Martian equator.


Taking 4.2 days for each lap around the planet, TGO completed a pair of science checkout orbits in late November, exercising the spacecraft’s imagers and spectrometers to ensure the cutting-edge instruments were in good shape, also providing valuable data for fine-tuning of the instruments over the coming months before science data acquisition can begin in earnest.


One final hurdle that has to be passed before putting TGO’s instruments to work is placing the spacecraft into its planned science orbit. The low inclination of the initial capture orbit was the result of the attempted landing of the Schiaparelli demonstrator module in Meridiani Planum near the equator, also taking into account the required position of TGO at the time of the landing to capture signals sent by the descending craft. These signals proved out vital in the investigation into the unfortunate failure of Schiaparelli’s landing at the point of parachute descent.


TGO’s orbital adjustment has been set up as a two-stage effort starting with a propulsive plane change followed by a lengthy period of aerobraking for altitude reduction.

more at the link...










  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...




27 February 2017
Next week, the ExoMars orbiter will devote two days to making important calibration measurements at the Red Planet, which are needed for the science phase of the mission that will begin next year.



TGO science orbit, 5–6 March 2017. Credit: ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO



The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), a joint endeavour between ESA and Roscosmos, arrived at Mars on 19 October. During two dedicated orbits in late November, the science instruments made their first calibration measurements since arriving at Mars. These included images of Mars and one of its moons, Phobos, and basic spectral analyses of the martian atmosphere.

At that time, the orbiter was in a highly elliptical path that took it from between 230 and 310 km above the surface to around 98 000 km every 4.2 days.

The main science mission will only begin once it reaches a near-circular orbit about 400 km above the planet's surface after a year of 'aerobraking' – using the atmosphere to gradually brake and change its orbit.

Earlier this year, in preparation for the aerobraking phase, TGO conducted a series of manoeuvres to shift its angle of travel with respect to the planet's equator to almost 74°. This raised it from a near-equatorial arrival orbit to one that flies over more of the northern and southern hemispheres.

This inclination will provide optimum coverage of the surface for the science instruments, while still offering good visibility for relaying data from current and future landers – including the ExoMars rover scheduled for launch in 2020.

Now, before the year-long aerobraking phase begins on 15 March, the science teams once again have the opportunity to make important calibration measurements, focusing mainly on tests to check the pointing and tracking of the instruments, but this time from the new orbit.

The spacecraft's new one-day orbit takes it from 37 150 km at its farthest and to within about 200 km of the planet's surface at its closest approach, which will also allow some of the closest images of the mission to be obtained.


TGO's two spectrometer suites will make some preliminary calibration observations on 28 February and 1 March while the spacecraft's instruments are facing towards Mars, with the main campaign taking place 5-7 March, covering two complete orbits of the planet.

more at the link...


















  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cruise stage for ExoMars-2020 travels to Russia



The cruise stage for the ExoMars-2020 mission shortly after its arrival to NPO Lavochkin in January 2017.



At the end of January 2017, a structural mockup of the cruise stage (officially known as ExoMars Carrier Module), which will guide the ExoMars-2020 mission between Earth and Mars, arrived at NPO Lavochkin, the project's main contractor in Russia.


The mockup assembled at RUAG Space under a contract with the European Space Agency, ESA, will be integrated with the Russian-built lander and an adapter for a series of vibration and thermal tests, NPO Lavochkin said.


Deputy Director for Production at NPO Lavochkin A.P. Tyutyunnikov was also quoted as saying that during January and February 2017, the company was upgrading an antenna mockup for the ExoMars-2020 spacecraft based on latest changes to the design documentation.



  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites







Title Noctis Labyrinthus stereo pair
Released 13/03/2017 4:00 pm
Copyright ESA/Roscosmos/CaSSIS,    CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO




ExoMars was launched on a Proton-M rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan on 14 March 2016. Around seven months later, it arrived at Mars.


As part of preparations for its main science mission to analyse the atmosphere for gases that may be related to biological or geological activity, and image sites that might be related to these sources, the Trace Gas Orbiter has conducted two campaigns to test its science instruments – one last November and one last week.


Presented here is one of the first image pairs taken by the orbiter’s high-resolution camera on 22 November.


The images together form a stereo pair of part of the Noctis Labyrinthus region of Mars. The camera takes one image looking slightly forwards (bottom image in this orientation), and then, after having flown over the area, it rotates to look ‘back’ to take the second part of the image (top), in order to see the same region of the surface from two different angles.


By combining the image pair, a 3D image can be constructed and information about the relative heights of the surface features can be seen.


The images were taken to test the timing of the images as the spacecraft moves over the surface, in order to best reconstruct the stereo images.


Additional tests were conducted last week to fine-tune the process.


Noctis Labyrinthus, or ‘Labyrinth of the night’, lies on the western edge of Valles Marineris, the grand canyon of the Solar System, and comprises a vast network of flat-topped plateaus and trenches. Landslides are seen in the flanks of the steep slopes.


Since arriving, the orbiter has also conducted a number of manoeuvres to change its orbital period and inclination, ready to begin the year-long aerobraking phase later this week. This process will use the planet’s atmosphere to gradually slow the spacecraft speed and so move it into a 400 km near-circular orbit, from which the craft will conduct its main science mission.


The images were taken by the CaSSIS camera; the scale here is 7.2 m/pixel and the images correspond to an area on Mars about 15 x 45 km.

Hi Res available at the link...



  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites



# ExoMars2016 : started operation on an output device on a circular orbithttps: // www. roscosmos.ru/23326/ 


Exomars. Launched an operation to OUTPUT APPARATUS into a circular orbit



16.03.2017 13:14
March 15, 2017, one year and one day after the launch of the mission "exomars-2016" started operations on braking device via the atmosphere. Now orbiter Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) is located on the highly elliptical orbit with apocenter 33 000 km and 200 km pericenter.
In the following weeks with the help of spacecraft engines begin maneuvers even greater reduction pericenter (up to 113 km above the surface). You will then begin the main braking phase, which will last for almost a year. As a result, the machine must enter the working circular orbit 400 km high.
In accordance with the operation to enter the working circumferential atmospheric drag during passage pericenter - nearest surface point of the orbit - TGO to "touch" the upper atmosphere and thus gradually slow down and, consequently, apocentre orbit.
The project "exomars" - a joint project of Roskosmos and the European Space Agency's Mars Exploration, its surface, atmosphere and climate from orbit and on the surface of the planet. It will open a new phase of space exploration for Europe and Russia.







# ExoMars2016 : summed up the work of scientific instruments on board TGOhttps: // www. roscosmos.ru/23327/ 


Exomars. Summed up the work of scientific instruments on board TGO



16.03.2017 17:49
Completed the second test campaign for the inclusion of scientific instruments on board the Trace Gas Orbiter mission unit "exomars-2016." Four scientific instruments, among them - two Russian, carried out test measurements and calibrations while on a one-day highly elliptical orbit around the planet. March 15 began braking stage using the air (so-called "aerobreyking"), which resulted in the TGO will be displayed on the working circular orbit with a height of about 400 km above the surface.
The second test campaign for the calibration of scientific instruments on the one-day elliptical orbit (decrease MCO-2 from Mars Capture Orbit) was held on February 28 and March 1 and March 5-7.
The structure of scientific equipment on board the vehicle Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) includes four unit, two of them are the Russian contribution to the project and have been created at the Institute of Space Research.
Russian neutron detector Frendo was included earlier: in the period from February 24 to March 2 and March 5-7. In total, we managed to obtain data during eight passes pericenter area.
They complement the information obtained during the passage of pericenters during the first test campaign for the calibration of scientific instruments (MCO-1) in November 2016. Together, they represent the calibration data by which you can evaluate your own background system and neutron signal from Mars. Friend has worked normally, and for the safety of the device at the time of inclusion of aerodynamic braking is not foreseen. Thus, the complete measurement will begin only next year.



ime profile counts neutrons obtained Frendo device during the second test campaign for the inclusion of scientific instruments "exomars 2016" mission. The colors are shown data obtained by three different counters as part of the device (s) ROSCOSMOS / ESA / exomars / Friend / SRI


Larger image




As part of the verification inclusions February 28 - March 7, 2017 TIRVIM device as part of the spectrometric complex ACS successfully fulfilled all the planned program. It included observations on the limb of Mars approaching the pericenters, several special operation modes in pericentral part of the orbit, as well as the measurement error of the axes spectrometer for observations of the Sun.




One hundred thousand spectra of Mars obtained TIRVIM device as part of the spectrometric complex ACS. Left: spectral brightness units; Right - the same in terms of brightness temperature. The horizontal axis - wavenumber. Carbon dioxide is the main component of the Mars atmosphere, gives a deep and wide spectral band centered at 667 cm-1. At the center of this band we "see" the upper layers of the atmosphere (and measure their temperature), in its wings - the lower layers. Thus the calculated temperature profile of the atmosphere necessary for the calculation of global circulation models of the Martian atmosphere (with) ROSCOSMOS / ESA / exomars / ACS / SRI

Large image



One hundred thousand spectra of Mars obtained TIRVIM device as part of the spectrometric complex ACS. Left: spectral brightness units; Right - the same in terms of brightness temperature. The horizontal axis - wavenumber. Carbon dioxide is the main component of the Mars atmosphere, gives a deep and wide spectral band centered at 667 cm-1. At the center of this band we "see" the upper layers of the atmosphere (and measure their temperature), in its wings - the lower layers. Thus the calculated temperature profile of the atmosphere necessary for the calculation of global circulation models of the Martian atmosphere (with) ROSCOSMOS / ESA / exomars / ACS / SRI

large image



During the test inclusions images of Mars with the help of cameras and CaSSIS complex spectra of the atmosphere of the planet NOMAD spectrometer were also obtained.
During the campaign, the MCO-2 Ground Scientific Complex (NSC) "exomars" project worked normally. During the sessions with the orbital module TGO in Space Research Institute received data received at ground stations ESA ESTRACK system in Malargue (Argentina) and New Norcia (Australia). The sessions duration of about 8 hours were performed up to two times per day, while the information received at the station, enters the NOCs through the European Space Astronomy Centre ESAC (Madrid, Spain) and the European flight control center ESOC (Darmstadt, Germany).
NOC enters the information is processed to extract the values of key parameters to ensure control of the functioning of on-board scientific equipment. At the same time scientific and technological information became available to developers of scientific instruments for further processing.



Temperature graph, current consumption and other parameters of the Russian instrument during MCO-2 (c) ROSCOSMOS / ESA / exomars

Large image





Link to comment
Share on other sites

Europe’s ExoMars spacecraft begins lowering its orbit



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



The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, a Russian-launched, European-built spacecraft that arrived at Mars in October, is starting to dip into the upper reaches of the red planet’s atmosphere in a year-long “aerobraking” campaign place the observatory in the right position to hunt for methane, an indicator of potential biological activity.


The effort to reshape the craft’s course around Mars uses aerodynamic drag from repeated dips into the upper atmosphere to gradually drag down the high point of the probe’s orbit from its current altitude of 20,500 miles (33,000 kilometers) to a planned perch 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the Martian surface.


Ground controllers at the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, are overseeing a series of seven thruster burns to nudge the low point of the spacecraft’s orbit from an altitude of 120 miles (200 kilometers) down to 70 miles (113 kilometers).


The Trace Gas Orbiter completed the first two burns Wednesday and Saturday, according to Håkan Svedhem, TGO’s project scientist at the European Space Agency. He said the orbit’s low point was at an altitude of 87 miles (140 kilometers), as of Monday.


The next orbit-lowering maneuver is scheduled for Tuesday, followed by more burns March 24, March 27, April 1 and April 6.


“It’s not ESA’s first experience with aerobraking, but it is the first time we’ve used this technique to achieve a planned science orbit, repeating it for such a long duration,” said Michel Denis, ESA’s ExoM


ars flight director. “The mission controllers have worked intensively with our flight dynamics experts to prepare for this challenging phase – we’re go for aerobraking.”


The gradual step-down into TGO’s aerobraking orbit allows ground controllers to monitor pressures and temperatures on the spacecraft.


“The atmospheric models aren’t perfect, so we have to ‘feel’ our way down to the start of aerobraking proper,” said Chris White, an ExoMars spacecraft operations engineer, in an ESA blog post describing the aerobraking procedures.



This illustration shows TGO’s current orbit. The aerobraking campaign will tighten the orbit to a circular perch just 250 miles (400 kilometers) from Mars. Credit: ESA



The orbiter will fly in a special orientation as it slices through the rarefied upper layers of the atmosphere, preventing direct communications with Earth at the most critical point of each orbit. As the spacecraft encounters air particles, friction will cause temperatures to rise outside the probe. Models predict the temperatures should be around 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius) on the craft’s two power-generating solar arrays during each passage.


If the temperatures reach 293 degrees Fahrenheit (145 degrees Celsius), or if other temperature and pressure redlines are exceeded, the spacecraft will automatically fire its thrusters to raise its orbit in a “pop-up” maneuver to avoid such extreme conditions on the next orbit, according to ESA.


“We’ll closely monitor the solar array temperature and the acceleration of the spacecraft, not only during the first few passages through the atmosphere but throughout the rest of 2017, and adjust the trajectory as needed,” Denis said in an ESA statement.


Changes in the density of the upper atmosphere caused by dust storms and solar activity make each TGO close approach unpredictable.


ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft flew deeper into the atmosphere of Venus during its final year of operations in 2014, gathering data about the planet’s thick, toxic atmosphere and giving European engineers experience with aerobraking techniques needed on future missions, starting with TGO.


NASA has conducted aerobraking maneuvers the red planet with the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter missions.


The technique saves fuel, reducing the mass of a spacecraft at launch. In TGO’s case, the tradeoff saved around 1,300 pounds (600 kilograms) of fuel, according to ESA.


The aerobraking campaign will take a two-month hiatus in July and August, when Mars is behind the sun as seen from Earth. The conjunction disrupts normal communications with spacecraft at the red planet, so managers want to temporarily raise TGO’s orbit to a safer altitude before resuming aerobraking at the end of August.


By early 2018, the repeated passes through the Martian atmosphere should pull TGO’s peak altitude to around 250 miles. Another rocket burn will raise the low point of the orbit to the same altitude, placing the spacecraft in a circular perch to begin regular scientific observations.


The circular orbit also allows TGO to act as a data relay satellite between Earth and landers and rovers on the Martian surface. ESA and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, plan to send a stationary landing platform and rover to the red planet in 2020, and TGO will be critical to enable communications for the mission.

more at the link...





Close-up of the rim of a large unnamed crater north of a crater named Da Vinci, situated near the Mars equator, as viewed by the CaSSIS camera aboard the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter on Nov. 22, 2016. Credit: ESA/Roscosmos/ExoMars/CaSSIS/UniBE




Flying over Mellish crater
Released 16/03/2017 11:00 am
Copyright ESA/Roscosmos/CaSSIS ,    CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
Test images of Mars acquired by the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter’s high-resolution CaSSIS camera on 5 March 2017. The mosaic comprises 40 individual image frames captured using the near-infrared filter. The images were taken just as the orbiter was crossing the boundary between day and night, in the southern hemisphere of Mars. To the top left of the image is the centre of Mellish crater (26ºW, 73ºS). The image scale is 38 m/pixel.









20 March 2017
On Monday 27 March, the 4th ExoMars Landing Site Selection Workshop will take place at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), The Netherlands. At the conclusion of the two-day meeting the Landing Site Selection Working Group will make their recommendation for which two landing sites should continue to be studied for the ExoMars 2020 mission.


The ExoMars rover and surface platform will launch in 2020. The primary objective is to land at a site with high potential for finding well-preserved organic material, particularly from the very early history of the planet.

While the surface platform will remain stationary at the landing site, the rover is expected to travel several kilometres during its time on Mars, and to drill down to two metres below the surface to collect samples for analysis in the rover's onboard laboratory. Underground samples are more likely to include possible chemical biosignatures in a good state of conservation, since the tenuous martian atmosphere offers little protection from radiation to complex molecules at the surface.


At the previous landing site selection workshop, which took place in October 2015, the Landing Site Selection Working Group (LSSWG) chose three landing sites for detailed study. At the time, the ExoMars rover was scheduled for launch in 2018 and Oxia Planum was identified as the primary choice.

Oxia Planum is a low-lying area that contains significant clay-bearing rocks. This indicates that water was once abundant here.

A further recommendation was made to also consider Oxia Planum as one of the two candidate landing sites for the backup launch opportunity in 2020, with a second to be selected from Aram Dorsum and Mawrth Vallis after due consideration.

Aram Dorsum is a flat region near the martian equator that includes the remains of a meandering channel and its surrounding flood plains. Mawrth Vallis contains many fine-layered, clay-rich sedimentary deposits that signal the presence of much water.



Potential landing sites for ExoMars 2020. Oxia Planum (indicated in green) was identified, at the 3rd Landing Site Selection Workshop, as one of the two candidate landing sites, with a second to be chosen between Aram Dorsum and Mawrth Vallis (both indicated in blue). Credit: ESA/CartoDB



Now that launch is scheduled for 2020, the LSSWG must come together again and narrow this choice to just two sites.

Each landing site team will present the results of their investigations. They will highlight the expected scientific diversity of the site, the accessibility of the interesting geological landforms, the driving conditions for the rover, and provide an example of a mission that could be conducted while traversing 3 kilometres on the surface.


On the second day of the workshop, the participants will vote on the relative merits of the three sites. The results will be taken into account but the final decision of which two sites to take forward will rest solely with the LSSWG. Their recommendations and reasons will be presented on the afternoon of 28 March.

The final decision about where to land the rover is expected to take place no later than mid-2019.

ExoMars is a joint endeavour between ESA and Roscosmos, with important contribution from NASA.



ExoMars rover - a 360 degree view

video is 1:12 min.





  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites




ExoMars rover
Released 27/03/2017 9:00 am
Copyright ESA/ATG medialab



ESA’s ExoMars rover (foreground) and Russia’s stationary surface science platform (background) are scheduled for launch in July 2020, arriving at Mars in March 2021. The Trace Gas Orbiter, which has been at Mars since October 2016, will act as a relay station for the mission, as well as conducting its own science mission.


Choosing the rover’s landing site is a demanding and lengthy process, because it must not only be interesting scientifically but also safe from an engineering viewpoint.


Establishing whether life ever existed on Mars is at the heart of the ExoMars programme, thus the chosen site should be ancient – around 3.9 billion years old – with abundant evidence of water having been present for extended periods.


The rover has a drill (the dark grey box at the front in the view above) that is capable of extracting samples from depths of 2 m. This is crucial, because the present surface of Mars is a hostile place for living organisms owing to the harsh solar and cosmic radiation. By searching underground, the rover has more chance of finding preserved evidence.


From an engineering perspective, the site has to be low-lying, to allow the entry module to descend through enough atmosphere to help slow its descent with parachutes, and it must not contain features that could endanger the landing, such as craters, steep slopes and large rocks.


Checking that all of these requirements are met takes many experts and many years.


In this case, it began in 2013, with eight proposals put forward and subsequently down-selected to four sites in 2014.


By late 2015, one site – Oxia Planum – had been recommended as the primary focus for further detailed evaluation, with two other sites retained for discussion at a later date. That later date has arrived, and experts will this week decide whether it will be Aram Dorsum or Mawrth Vallis that will also be put forward to study in further detail.


Following the decision, an announcement will be posted on the ESA website. Confirmation of the primary landing site and the backup will occur only about a year before launch.







ExoMars rover: front view, annotated
Released 27/03/2017 8:00 am
Copyright ESA/ATG medialab



Artist’s impression of the ExoMars 2020 rover. This image shows the rover as viewed from the front.


The 310 kg rover will traverse the martian landscape on six wheels. It will be the first rover capable of drilling down 2 m, where ancient biomarkers may still be preserved from the harsh radiation environment on the surface. The drill is housed in the large box at the front of the rover. It will collect samples with the drill and deliver them to the Analytical Laboratory Drawer in the body of the rover, via the sample delivery window.


The drill, shown here with the front casing of the drill box removed to reveal the interior, also contains the Mars Multispectral Imager for Subsurface Studies (Ma_MISS), which will image the walls of the borehole created by the drill to study the mineralogy and rock formation.


PanCam, the panoramic camera, will provide stereo and 3D imagery of the terrain around the rover. The Infrared Spectrometer for ExoMars (ISEM) will determine the major mineral composition of distant rocks, outcrops, and soils. The Close-Up Imager, CLUPI, will acquire high-resolution, colour, close-up images of outcrops, rocks, soils, drill fines and drill core samples. Navigation cameras and ‘localisation’ cameras are used to determine where the rover is and where it will move.


Not all instruments are visible in this view.







ExoMars rover: rear view, annotated
Released 27/03/2017 8:00 am
Copyright ESA/ATG medialab



Artist’s impression of the ExoMars 2020 rover. This image shows the rover as viewed from behind.


The rover will traverse the martian landscape on six wheels. Power is supplied to the rover by solar arrays. These are folded during the journey to Mars and deployed once the rover is on the martian surface.


Two UHF monopole antennas are used to communicate with Mars orbiters, including the Trace Gas Orbiter.


The antennas of the WISDOM ground-penetrating radar can be seen in this view. WISDOM is the Water Ice Subsurface Deposit Observation on Mars instrument suite, and will provide a detailed view of the Red Planet's shallow subsurface structure by sounding the upper layers of its crust. This will give three-dimensional geological context of the terrain covered by the rover.







ExoMars poster
Released 27/03/2017 8:00 am
Copyright ESA/ATG medialab



ExoMars mission poster (2017 edition).


The poster features an artist's impression of the ExoMars 2020 rover (foreground) and surface science platform (background), and the Trace Gas Orbiter (top) that launched to Mars in 2016. Not to scale.



  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites



Final Two ExoMars Sites Chosen



28 March 2017

Two ancient sites on Mars that hosted an abundance of water in the planet’s early history have been recommended as the final candidates for the landing site of the 2020 ExoMars rover and surface science platform: Oxia Planum and Mawrth Vallis.


A primary technical constraint is that the landing site be at a suitably low level, so that there is sufficient atmosphere to help slow the landing module’s parachute descent.


Then, the 120 x 19 km landing ellipse should not contain features that could endanger the landing, the deployment of the surface platform ramps for the rover to exit, and driving of the rover. This means scrutinising the region for steep slopes, loose material and large rocks.


Oxia Planum was selected in 2015 for further detailed evaluation. Although not yet complete, the investigation so far indicates that the region would meet the various constraints. In addition, one other site had to be chosen from Aram Dorsum and Mawrth Vallis.


After a two-day meeting with experts from the Mars science community, industry, and ExoMars project, during which the scientific merits of the three sites were presented alongside the preliminary compliance status with the engineering constraints, it was concluded that Mawrth Vallis will be the second site to be evaluated in more detail.


Around a year before launch, the final decision will be taken on which site will become the ExoMars 2020 landing target.


All of the sites lie just north of the equator, in a region with many channels cutting through from the southern highlands to the northern highlands. As such, they preserve a rich record of geological history from the planet’s wetter past billions of years ago, and are prime targets for missions like ExoMars that are searching for signatures of past life on Mars.



Oxia Planum lies at a boundary where many channels emptied into the vast lowland plains and exhibits layers of clay-rich minerals that were formed in wet conditions some 3.9 billion years ago.


Observations from orbit show that the minerals in Oxia Planum are representative of those found in a wide area around this region, and so would provide insight into the conditions experienced at a global scale during this epoch of martian history.


Mawrth Vallis is a large outflow channel a few hundred kilometres away from Oxia Planum. The proposed landing ellipse is just to the south of the channel. The entire region exhibits extensively layered, clay-rich sedimentary deposits, and a diversity of minerals that suggests a sustained presence of water over a period of several hundred million years, perhaps including localised ponds.


In addition, light-toned fractures containing ‘veins’ of water-altered minerals point to interactions between rocks and liquid in subsurface aquifers, and possible hydrothermal activity that may have been beneficial to any ancient life forms. 


Mawrth Vallis offers a window into a large period of martian history that could probe the early evolution of the planet’s environment over time.


“While all three sites under discussion would give us excellent opportunities to look for signatures of ancient biomarkers and gain new insights into the planet’s wetter past, we can only carry two sites forward for further detailed analysis,” says Jorge Vago, ESA’s ExoMars rover project scientist.


"Thus, after an intense meeting, which focused primarily on the scientific merits of the sites, the Landing Site Selection Working Group has recommended that Mawrth Vallis join Oxia Planum as one of the final two candidates for the ExoMars 2020 mission.


“Both candidate sites would explore a period of ancient martian history that hasn’t been studied by previous missions.”






Oxia Planum texture map
Released 28/03/2017 5:00 pm
Copyright Base map: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University; analysis: IRSPS/TAS-I



One example of how the Oxia Planum landing site under consideration for the ExoMars 2020 mission is being analysed. The map outlines a boundary (red) that encapsulates the range of possible 120 x 19 km landing ellipses, with some added margin. Elevation contours are also indicated. The colours represent the variety of surface terrains identified, including plains (green shades), channels (blues), impact craters (yellow, with black outlines), and wind-blown features (pink). It is not a geological map intended for scientific analysis, but rather a tool used to identify different surface textures and where potential hazards may lie.

The background image is from the Thermal Emission Imaging System instrument on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter.






Mawrth Vallis martian mosaic
Released 26/09/2016 12:30 pm
Copyright ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO



Sculpted by ancient water flowing on the surface, Mawrth Vallis is one of the most remarkable outflow channels on Mars. The valley, once a potentially habitable place, is one of the main features of a region at the boundary between the southern highlands and the northern lowlands.


Mawrth Vallis takes centre stage in this image, a bird’s eye view of a 330 000 sq km area surrounding the valley. With a length of 600 km and a depth of up to 2 km, it is one of the biggest valleys on Mars. Huge amounts of water once passed through it, from a higher elevation region, part of which is shown in the lower right of the image, into the northern plains, in the top left.


Among the remarkable features are the large exposures of light-toned phyllosilicates (weathered clay minerals) that lie along its course. Phyllosilicates on Mars are evidence of the past presence of liquid water and point to the possibility that habitable environments could have existed on the planet up until 3.6 billion years ago.


A dark cap rock, remains of ancient volcanic ash, covers many of the clays and could have protected traces of ancient microbes in the rocks from radiation and erosion. This makes Mawrth Vallis one of the most interesting regions for geologists and astrobiologists alike. It is one of the candidate landing sites for ExoMars 2020, a joint mission between ESA and Russia, with the primary goal of finding out if life once existed on Mars.


The name comes from the Welsh word for Mars (“Mawrth”) and the Latin for valley (“Vallis”). This mosaic was created using nine individual images taken by the high-resolution stereo camera on ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft, which has been orbiting Mars since late 2003. It is one of a set of images of this region previously published on 7 July 2016 on the DLR website and the homepage of the Freie Universität Berlin. 






Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Schiaparelli Investigation Completed


The inquiry into the crash-landing of the ExoMars Schiaparelli module has concluded that conflicting information in the onboard computer caused the descent sequence to end prematurely.




The independent external inquiry, chaired by ESA’s Inspector General, has now been completed.


It identifies the circumstances and the root causes, and makes general recommendations to avoid such defects and weaknesses in the future. The report summary can be downloaded here.


Around three minutes after atmospheric entry the parachute deployed, but the module experienced unexpected high rotation rates. This resulted in a brief ‘saturation’ – where the expected measurement range is exceeded – of the Inertial Measurement Unit, which measures the lander’s rotation rate.


The saturation resulted in a large attitude estimation error by the guidance, navigation and control system software. The incorrect attitude estimate, when combined with the later radar measurements, resulted in the computer calculating that it was below ground level.


This resulted in the early release of the parachute and back-shell, a brief firing of the thrusters for only 3 sec instead of 30 sec, and the activation of the on-ground system as if Schiaparelli had landed. The surface science package returned one housekeeping data packet before the signal was lost.


In reality, the module was in free-fall from an altitude of about 3.7 km, resulting in an estimated impact speed of 540 km/h.


The Schiaparelli Inquiry Board report noted that the module was very close to landing successfully at the planned location and that a very important part of the demonstration objectives were achieved. The flight results revealed required software upgrades, and will help improve computer models of parachute behaviour.


“The realtime relay of data during the descent was crucial to provide this in-depth analysis of Schiaparelli’s fate,” says David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration.


“We are extremely grateful to the teams of hard-working scientists and engineers who provided the scientific instruments and prepared the investigations on Schiaparelli, and deeply regret that the results were curtailed by the untimely end of the mission.


“There were clearly a number of areas that should have been given more attention in the preparation, validation and verification of the entry, descent and landing system.


“We will take the lessons learned with us as we continue to prepare for the ExoMars 2020 rover and surface platform mission. Landing on Mars is an unforgiving challenge but one that we must meet to achieve our ultimate goals.”


“Interestingly, had the saturation not occurred and the final stages of landing had been successful, we probably would not have identified the other weak spots that contributed to the mishap,” notes Jan Woerner, ESA's Director General. “As a direct result of this inquiry we have discovered the areas that require particular attention that will benefit the 2020 mission.”


ExoMars 2020 has since passed an important review confirming it is on track to meet the launch window. Having been fully briefed on the status of the project, ESA Member States at the Human Spaceflight, Microgravity and Exploration Programme Board reconfirmed their commitment to the mission, which includes the first Mars rover dedicated to drilling below the surface to search for evidence of life on the Red Planet.


Meanwhile the Trace Gas Orbiter has begun its year-long aerobraking in the fringes of the atmosphere that will deliver it to its science orbit in early 2018. The spacecraft has already shown its scientific instruments are ready for work in two observing opportunities in November and March.


In addition to its main goal of analysing the atmosphere for gases that may be related to biological or geological activity, the orbiter will also act as a relay for the 2020 rover and surface platform.


The ExoMars programme is a joint endeavour between ESA and Roscosmos.



Summary of the final report is here (PDF)


Conclusion (pg 9-10)


The Schiaparelli Entry, Descent and Landing sequence was nominal until “consistency checks” between the IMU and the RDA measurements were performed. The following mission phases was successfully performed prior to that:

  • Correct separation from the TGO (delta-V slightly higher than expected, without any impact on the mission)
  • Correct wake-up from hibernation after 3 days of coasting 
  • Correct detection of the Martian atmosphere
  • Correct entry and aero braking in the Martian atmosphere
  • Correct detection of parachute deployment time
  • Deployment and inflation of the parachute. The deployment and inflation of the parachute did cause lateral angular oscillations of the capsule above the saturation threshold of the IMU in one axis corrupting the estimated attitude because of its undo long persistence time. This should have been identified as a risk and carefully handled at both system and IMU level, taking due account of off-axis deployment, possible asymmetric inflation, and area oscillations of the parachute and by adequate verification of the IMU saturation flag persistence time. The parachute worked, but its behaviour at Mach 2 was not sufficiently understood.
  • Correct jettison of the Front Shield
  • Correct functioning of the Radar Doppler Altimeter


The logic, in case of inconsistency between IMU and RDA measurements, was to force the RDA in the loop and enter TERMINAL_DESCENT mode in spite of the fact that the altitude derived, when combining slant ranges from the RDA with the corrupted attitude, was negative. Subsequent mode changes, conditioned on altitude, immediately triggered the Back-shield Separation, activated the Reaction Control System for the minimum time of 3 seconds, which lead to the free fall of Schiaparelli from an altitude of around 3.7 km.


After entering in TERMINAL_DESCENT mode:

  • The Back Shell and parachute separation worked correctly (the timing was obviously wrong)
  • The reaction control system was successfully primed and seemed to work correctly during 3 seconds (until it was switched off triggered by the estimated negative altitude)
  • The Back Shell and Parachute avoidance manoeuvre was not demonstrated because it was not necessary with the lateral velocity measured.
  • The retro-propelled descent phase down to the drop point around 2 meters above the Martian surface was not demonstrated
  • The free fall survival of the EDM from the drop point to the Martian surface was not demonstrated
  • The switch to surface mode and initialisation of instruments was demonstrated during the free fall.
  • The location of the impact on the Martian surface was close to the centre of the ellipse of the predicted landing site.


In conclusion, the Schiaparelli demonstrator was very close to land successfully on Mars at the planned location. A very important part of the demonstration objectives have been achieved, which allows to validate tools and to identify the required upgrades.


IMU- Inertial Measurement Unit

RDA- Radar Doppler Altimeter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This topic is now closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Similar Content

    • By Chandrakant
      Chinese Zhurong rover sends audiovisuals from Mars
      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.