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ExoMars goes for a spin

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Science & Exploration

05/03/2021
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  • The complete ExoMars 2022 mission comprising the provider module, descent module, Kazachok floor platform and Rosalind Franklin rover have accomplished important ‘spin exams’ 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 collection of excessive altitude drop exams

Balancing act

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

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

ExoMars spacecraft composite in dynamic balancing check

Throughout the cruise to Mars the entire ‘spacecraft composite’ (comprising all 4 items) might be spinning at about 2.75 revolutions per minute, with a purpose to stabilise itself on its trajectory. The dynamic balancing check checks that there are not any imbalances that might induce wobbles in area that may require an excessive amount of gasoline to compensate. It is usually vital that the spacecraft is balanced in order that it spins easily round its rotation axis, to maintain its antenna pointed to Earth, so communication hyperlink is feasible.

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

Due to this fact, two dynamic balancing exams had been performed: one check for the entire composite spacecraft, and one with out the provider module, for the descent module with rover and platform inside. In all of the exams, which had been performed at Thales Alenia Area’s cleanroom services in Cannes, France, the precise flight modules had been used.

Throughout the check with the spacecraft composite, the unit was subjected to a spin as much as 30 rpm, similar 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 purposeful testing.

Rehearsing rover science

In the meantime on the Rover Operations Management Centre (ROCC) in Turin, the Rosalind Franklin ‘floor check mannequin’ accomplished an thrilling milestone. Whereas the reproduction rover remains to be stationary within the clear room, the operations group 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’ll throughout the true 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 info. 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 rover will be capable to retrieve soil samples right down to 2 m underground, the place historical biomarkers should be preserved from the tough radiation on the floor, and ship them to the onboard laboratory. Within the current train, the reproduction rover was commanded to deploy its drill with a dummy pattern onboard, transporting it to the Analytical Laboratory Drawer. In actuality, on Mars, a classy 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 purposeful exams. 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 check technique

The 2 principal parachutes that may assist ship the mission safely to the floor of Mars are scheduled for the subsequent excessive altitude drop check in Might/June this 12 months, from Kiruna, Sweden. Following the high altitude drop test in November 2020, which noticed some localised damages to each parachute canopies, a brand new approach ahead has been adopted.

“We’ve got revised our technique to provide us the perfect likelihood attainable in qualifying the ExoMars parachutes earlier than the tip of this 12 months with a purpose to meet our 2022 launch window,” says Thierry Blancquaert, performing ExoMars programme group chief. “We’ve got due to this fact invited a second skilled parachute producer to contribute to the ExoMars programme by offering us with further canopies to make use of within the upcoming alternatives.”

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

Not like the one-parachute and sky-crane strategy utilized by NASA’s Perseverance rover to land on Mars, the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars mission requires two principal parachutes – every with its personal pilot chute for extraction – to assist gradual the descent module because it plunges via the environment.

ExoMars 2022 parachute deployment sequence

The full deployment sequence was qualified within the first excessive altitude drop check in 2019 that noticed a drop check car deployed from an altitude of 29 km through stratospheric balloon. However in the identical check, vital injury 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 high speed ground-based dynamic extraction tests at NASA/JPL’s services in December 2019. The unique damages had been additionally efficiently replicated in a collection of devoted ground-based exams on the finish of final 12 months, confirming the foundation causes of the noticed anomalies. The cover damages noticed within the November 2020 drop check had been considerably much less extreme than what was noticed in the course of the 2019 check, and the inspection of the check information pointed to the early inflation course of for subsequent enhancements.

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

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

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

Within the months previous to the excessive altitude drop exams, slots are being deliberate utilizing the ground-based dynamic extraction check facility to examine the efficiency if any adjustments are made to the parachutes, folding or baggage previous to flying them. Excessive altitude drop exams require advanced logistics and strict climate situations, making them tough to schedule, whereas the bottom exams could be repeated on a fast turnaround, shopping for considerably extra time within the check marketing campaign and lowering danger by permitting extra exams to be performed on a short while body.

“We’ve got realized worthwhile classes from the present race to parachute qualification, not least the necessity for a extra sturdy testing of recent applied sciences a lot earlier within the mission timeline when growing such advanced 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 with a purpose to deliver 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, searching for out geologically attention-grabbing 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 providing data relay support for NASA’s surface missions, together with the arrival of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover final month.

For extra info, please contact:
ESA Media Relations
media@esa.int


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