Fri. Apr 16th, 2021

Science & Exploration


  • The complete ExoMars 2022 mission comprising the provider module, descent module, Kazachok floor platform and Rosalind Franklin rover have accomplished important ‘spin assessments’ in preparation for his or her journey to Mars
  • Rosalind Franklin’s rover twin on Earth has executed trial science actions for the primary time, together with drill pattern assortment and close-up imaging
  • A brand new parachute technique has been adopted forward of the subsequent sequence of excessive altitude drop assessments

Balancing act

Important preparation for the mission’s flight to Mars and plunge by the planet’s ambiance is to make sure the spacecraft is completely balanced when spinning.

The ExoMars 2022 mission includes 4 most important models: the ESA-led Rosalind Franklin rover and Roscosmos-led Kazachok floor platform that can carry out science actions on the floor of Mars, the descent module during which they’re encapsulated, and the provider module that can transport them from Earth to Mars following launch.

ExoMars spacecraft composite in dynamic balancing take a look at

Throughout the cruise to Mars the whole ‘spacecraft composite’ (comprising all 4 models) will likely be spinning at about 2.75 revolutions per minute, in an effort to stabilise itself on its trajectory. The dynamic balancing take a look at checks that there aren’t any imbalances that would induce wobbles in house that might require an excessive amount of gasoline to compensate. It is usually essential that the spacecraft is balanced in order that it spins easily round its rotation axis, to maintain its antenna pointed to Earth, so {that a} communication hyperlink is feasible.

As soon as the descent module is launched near Mars, about 30 minutes previous to atmospheric entry, the unique spin is maintained till atmospheric take over, and when the primary parachute is deployed. despinning happens as soon as the propulsion system on the touchdown platform kicks in near the floor of Mars.

Subsequently, two dynamic balancing assessments had been carried out: one take a look at for the whole composite spacecraft, and one with out the provider module, for the descent module with rover and platform inside. In all of the assessments, which had been carried out at Thales Alenia Area’s cleanroom services in Cannes, France, the precise flight modules had been used.

Throughout the take a look at with the spacecraft composite, the unit was subjected to a spin as much as 30 rpm, equivalent to a centrifugal acceleration of 2g on the outer fringe of the descent module’s heatshield.

Upon completion of the environmental testing at Cannes, the spacecraft will return to Thales Alenia Area’s services in Turin, Italy, mid-March, for additional useful testing.

Rehearsing rover science

In the meantime on the Rover Operations Management Centre (ROCC) in Turin, the Rosalind Franklin ‘floor take a look at mannequin’ accomplished an thrilling milestone. Whereas the duplicate rover remains to be stationary within the clear room, the operations crew commanded it like they might when lastly on the floor of Mars.

“It’s actually thrilling to have used for the primary time the ROCC chain of instructions like we are going to throughout the actual mission,” says Luc Joudrier, ESA’s ExoMars rover operations supervisor. “We outlined the rover’s ‘Exercise Plan’, despatched it to the rover, and afterwards ingested and processed the information. It’s nice to see the ROCC working like this.”

Commanding ExoMars cameras

One of many actions was to check Rosalind Franklin’s one-of-a-kind drill. It’s the first time in Mars exploration {that a} rover will have the ability to retrieve soil samples right down to 2 m underground, the place historic biomarkers should still be preserved from the tough radiation on the floor, and ship them to the onboard laboratory. Within the latest train, the duplicate rover was commanded to deploy its drill with a dummy pattern onboard, transporting it to the Analytical Laboratory Drawer. In actuality, on Mars, a complicated laboratory will analyse the pattern’s composition.

The rover was additionally commanded to picture the pattern with its Shut-Up Imager, located on the backside of the drill unit.

The suite of excessive decision panoramic cameras had been additionally activated as a part of an imaging calibration train.

Quickly the dual rover will transfer into the ROCC’s Mars Terrain Simulation to trial mobility instructions and different useful assessments. Rover operators and scientists will rehearse these simulations many instances and specializing in completely different rover actions as a part of their coaching between now and the mission arriving on Mars.

New parachute take a look at technique

The 2 most important parachutes that can assist ship the mission safely to the floor of Mars are scheduled for the subsequent excessive altitude drop take a look at in Could/June this 12 months, from Kiruna, Sweden. Following the excessive altitude drop take a look at in November 2020, which noticed some localised damages to each parachute canopies, a brand new manner ahead has been adopted.

“Now we have revised our technique to offer us the perfect likelihood potential in qualifying the ExoMars parachutes earlier than the top of this 12 months in an effort to meet our 2022 launch window,” says Thierry Blancquaert, appearing ExoMars programme crew chief. “Now we have subsequently invited a second professional parachute producer to contribute to the ExoMars programme by offering us with extra canopies to make use of within the upcoming alternatives.”

Along with the parachutes from Arescosmo, newly manufactured parachutes from Airborne Techniques, who helped ship NASA’s Perseverance rover safely to Mars earlier this month, are additionally now being manufactured. Airborne Techniques additionally helps the ground-based parachute extraction assessments carried out at NASA/JPL.

In contrast to the one-parachute and sky-crane strategy utilized by NASA’s Perseverance rover to land on Mars, the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars mission requires two most important parachutes – every with its personal pilot chute for extraction – to assist sluggish the descent module because it plunges by the ambiance.

ExoMars 2022 parachute deployment sequence

The complete deployment sequence was certified within the first excessive altitude drop take a look at in 2019 that noticed a drop take a look at car deployed from an altitude of 29 km by way of stratospheric balloon. However in the identical take a look at, vital harm to the parachute canopies had been noticed. This led to a redesign of the parachute bag and a revised packing technique, along with reinforcements to each parachute canopies. The modified baggage and parachutes had been efficiently examined within the first excessive velocity ground-based dynamic extraction assessments at NASA/JPL’s services in December 2019. The unique damages had been additionally efficiently replicated in a sequence of devoted ground-based assessments on the finish of final 12 months, confirming the foundation causes of the noticed anomalies. The cover damages noticed within the November 2020 drop take a look at had been considerably much less extreme than what was noticed in the course of the 2019 take a look at, and the inspection of the take a look at information pointed to the early inflation course of for subsequent enhancements.

“The brand new parachute canopies are stronger and extra strong, and the redesigned baggage have already confirmed promising outcomes, so we’re trying ahead to finalising the logistics for the subsequent excessive altitude drop take a look at alternative within the Could-June timeframe, from Kiruna, Sweden,” says Thierry.

In addition to a brand new bag , a revised strategy to folding tackles the issue of the parachute traces twisting upon extraction, which had beforehand restricted the canopies’ means to inflate appropriately. 

A follow-up excessive altitude drop take a look at is anticipated from Oregon, USA, within the September-November timeframe to maximise the alternatives for testing. If wanted, a last alternative may very well be thought of in February/March 2022 from Oregon.

Within the months previous to the excessive altitude drop assessments, slots are being deliberate utilizing the ground-based dynamic extraction take a look at facility to examine the efficiency if any adjustments are made to the parachutes, folding or baggage previous to flying them. Excessive altitude drop assessments require complicated logistics and strict climate circumstances, making them troublesome to schedule, whereas the bottom assessments might be repeated on a fast turnaround, shopping for considerably extra time within the take a look at marketing campaign and decreasing danger by permitting extra assessments to be carried out on a short while .

“Now we have discovered worthwhile classes from the present race to parachute qualification, not least the necessity for a extra strong testing of recent applied sciences a lot earlier within the mission timeline when growing such complicated missions,” says Francois Spoto, ESA’s Mars Exploration Group Chief. “Along with our massive trade consortium and worldwide companions we proceed to push ahead to beat the ultimate hurdles in an effort to convey Europe safely to Mars.”

ExoMars timeline

The ExoMars mission will launch on a Proton-M rocket with a Breeze-M higher stage from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, within the 20 September – 1 October 2022 launch window. As soon as landed safely within the Oxia Planum area of Mars on 10 June 2023, the rover will drive off the floor platform, in search of out geologically fascinating websites to drill beneath the floor, to find out if life ever existed on our neighbour planet. The ExoMars programme, a joint endeavour between ESA and Roscosmos, additionally contains the Hint Gasoline Orbiter, which has been orbiting Mars since 2016. In addition to its personal science mission, Hint Gasoline Orbiter will present important information relay companies for the floor mission; it’s already offering information relay help for NASA’s floor missions, together with the arrival of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover final month.

For extra data, please contact:
ESA Media Relations
[email protected]

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