ESA Completes Inquiry into ExoMars Schiaparelli Failure

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imaged the ExoMars Schiaparelli module’s landing site on 25 October 2016, following the module’s arrival at Mars on 19 October. The zoomed insets provide close-up views of what are thought to be several different hardware components associated with the module’s descent to the martian surface. These are interpreted as the front heatshield, the parachute and the rear heatshield to which the parachute is still attached, and the impact site of the module itself. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

PARIS (ESA PR) — 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 Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator module separated from its mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, as planned on 16 October last year, and coasted towards Mars for three days.

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USA, China Led World in Launches in 2016

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

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The United States and China led the world in orbital launch attempts in 2016 with 22 apiece. The combined 44 launches made up more than half of the 85 flights conducted around the world.

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UK Space Agency Allocates 1.4 Billion Euros to ESA Budget

UK_space_agencySWINDON, England (UKSA PR) — UK Space Agency allocates more than €1.4 billion over the next five years to European Space Agency programmes at the Council of Ministers in Lucerne, Switzerland.

  • €670.5 million investment in satellite technology for UK industry and science, including telecommunications, Earth observation, navigation and satellite services supporting every sector of the economy, including
  • €23 million to build on UK leadership of ESA’s climate change monitoring programme, based at the ECSAT facility in Harwell, Oxford.
    €82.4 million for the next phase of the ExoMars programme, to put a British-built rover on the surface of Mars.
  • €71 million for ESA’s International Space Station programme to 2021 and for the future of deep space exploration, building on the legacy of Tim Peake’s Principia mission

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ESA Approves 10.3 Billion Euro Budget; ISS Extended, ExoMars Funded

ESA logoMinisters from 22 ESA member countries approved a multi-year spending plan of €10.3 billion ($11 billion) for the European space agency, a reduction from the  €11 billion ($11.74 billion) that Director General Jan Dietrich Woerner had sought.

The budget includes an extension of the International Space Station to 2020 to 2024. ESA was the last of the international partners to approve the extension after the United States, Russia, Japan and Canada.

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Is Arca Space to Blame for Failure of ESA’s ExoMars Lander?

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imaged the ExoMars Schiaparelli module’s landing site on 25 October 2016, following the module’s arrival at Mars on 19 October. The zoomed insets provide close-up views of what are thought to be several different hardware components associated with the module’s descent to the martian surface. These are interpreted as the front heatshield, the parachute and the rear heatshield to which the parachute is still attached, and the impact site of the module itself. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imaged the ExoMars Schiaparelli module’s landing site on 25 October 2016, following the module’s arrival at Mars on 19 October. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

Accusations are flying that ESA’s ExoMars Schiaparelli lander crashed into the Red Planet due to poor ground testing conducted by a Romanian company named ARCA Space.

ESA released the preliminary conclusions after the Italian Space Agency had accused that the decisive tests for the Sciaparelli lander simulations had been entrusted to an organization “which hadn’t enough expertize”. It’s about Arca Space Romanian company, based in Las Cruces, USA, as La Repubblica reported.

In retort, the Arca Space Corporation manager, Dumitru Popescu warned the Italian space agency to be more careful, as they don’t have proves to support their accusations. “They could pay the price. We are at ease that we did all we could do: to run a specific test we should have flown very closely to the Russian base in Sevastopol. Russia has just annexed Crimea and we risked generating a conflict between the Russian Federation and NATO,” the Romanian manager argued.

ESA said last week that an inertia measurement unit became saturated with data during descent, providing data that made the lander’s computer believe the vehicle was either about to land or had already landed. The computer ordered the release of the parachute even though the lander was still 3.7 km above the martian surface.

Schiaparelli was designed to test the landing system for a rover that ESA plans to place on the surface. Agency officials have said they gained valuable data from the test.

Arca Space has set up operations in Las Cruces, NM, where it is making hover boards.

Detailed Images of Schiaparelli & Descent Hardware on Martian Surface

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imaged the ExoMars Schiaparelli module’s landing site on 25 October 2016, following the module’s arrival at Mars on 19 October. The zoomed insets provide close-up views of what are thought to be several different hardware components associated with the module’s descent to the martian surface. These are interpreted as the front heatshield, the parachute and the rear heatshield to which the parachute is still attached, and the impact site of the module itself. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imaged the ExoMars Schiaparelli module’s landing site on 25 October 2016. The zoomed insets provide close-up views of what are thought to be several different hardware components associated with the module’s descent to the martian surface. These are interpreted as the front heatshield, the parachute and the rear heatshield to which the parachute is still attached, and the impact site of the module itself. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

DARMSTADT, Germany (ESA PR) — A high-resolution image taken by a NASA Mars orbiter this week reveals further details of the area where the ExoMars Schiaparelli module ended up following its descent on 19 October.

The latest image was taken on 25 October by the high-resolution camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and provides close-ups of new markings on the planet’s surface first found by the spacecraft’s ‘context camera’ last week.

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View of ESA Mars Probe on Surface

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter view of Schiaparelli landing site. (Credit: NASA)
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter view of Schiaparelli landing site. (Credit: NASA)

DARMSTADT, Germany, 21 October 2016 (ESA PR) — NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has identified new markings on the surface of the Red Planet that are believed to be related to ESA’s ExoMars Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing technology demonstrator module.

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ESA Engineers Try to Determine What Happened to Mars Lander

Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)
Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

DARMSTADT, Germany, 20 October 2016 (ESA PR) — Essential data from the ExoMars Schiaparelli lander sent to its mothership Trace Gas Orbiter during the module’s descent to the Red Planet’s surface yesterday has been downlinked to Earth and is currently being analysed by experts.

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ExoMars Orbiter Now Circling Mars, No Contact With Lander

Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)
Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

DARMSTADT, Germany, 19 October 2016 (ESA PR) — The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) of ESA’s ExoMars 2016 has successfully performed the long 139-minute burn required to be captured by Mars and entered an elliptical orbit around the Red Planet, while contact has not yet been confirmed with the mission’s test lander from the surface.

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ExoMars Spacecraft Enters Orbit; Fate of Lander Unknown

Trace Gas Orbiter, Schiaparelli and the ExoMars rover at Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)
Trace Gas Orbiter, Schiaparelli and the ExoMars rover at Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

ESA has placed its ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter into orbit around the Red Planet. However, the fate of the Schiaparelli lander lander remains unknown. No signal has been received yet.

18:53 CEST: The ExoMars/TGO spacecraft completed its critical orbit-insertion manoeuvre at Mars today and its signals were received by ground stations at 18:34 CEST, just as expected. The timely re-acquisition indicates the engine burn went as planned, and mission controllers are waiting for a detailed assessment from the flight dynamics specialists at ESOC to confirm it.

Teams monitoring the Schiaparelli lander continue waiting for indication of the lander’s progress. Engineers are waiting for the next signal receipt slot, which will be provided by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which will overfly the Schiaparelli landing site between about 18:49 and 19:03 CEST, and downlink any received signals at around 20:00 CEST.

18:35 CEST: ACQUISITION OF SIGNAL from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter after it emerged from behind Mars.

17:28 CEST: The orbit insertion manoeuvre of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter should have ended but the spacecraft is now behind Mars on the line of sight from Earth. Acquisition of signal is expected when TGO emerges from behind Mars after 18:32 CEST.

17:12 CEST: End of planned Schiaparelli transmission. Initial signals were received via the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) as Schiaparelli descended to the surface of Mars, but no signal indicating touchdown yet. This is not unexpected due to the very faint nature of the signal received at GMRT. A clearer assessment of the situation will come when ESA’s Mars Express will have relayed the recording of Schiaparelli’s entry, descent and landing.

16:50 CEST: Signals from Mars take 9 minutes 47 seconds to reach Earth today, so the teams are waiting for the first indications that the entry, descent and landing events actually happened at Mars. It may take some hours to get official confirmation that Schiaparelli has landed on the Red Planet. Stay tuned.

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Watch ExoMars Arrival & Landing at Mars on Wednesday

Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)
Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

Watch ExoMars Arrival and Landing

Watch all livestreaming events directly via ESA’s Livestream channel.

Live Coverage Overview

19 October – Landing and Arriving at Mars

Live coverage of ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter arrival and Schiaparelli landing on Mars will begin with our Facebook Live Social TV programme (also streamed on Livestream.com) 13:00–15:15 GMT / 15:00–17:15 CEST on 19 October.

The ESA TV programme will be broadcast on this page in two parts on 19 October:

15:44–16:59 GMT / 17:44–18:59 CEST
18:25–20:03 GMT / 20:25–22:03 CEST

For additional mission status text updates see here.

20 October – Status Report and First Images

A press conference is scheduled for 20 October at 08:00 GMT / 10:00 CEST, when a mission status update is expected, along with the first images from the Schiaparelli descent camera. This will also be streamed live via the player above.

Times subject to change.

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Schiaparelli Readied for Mars Landing

Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)
Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

DARMSTADT, Germany (ESA PR) — This week, the commands that will govern the Schiaparelli lander’s descent and touchdown on Mars were uploaded to ESA’s ExoMars spacecraft, enroute to the Red Planet.

The Trace Gas Orbiter has been carrying the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator since launch on 14 March. Upon arrival on 19 October, Schiaparelli will test the technology needed for Europe’s 2020 rover to land, while its parent craft brakes into an elliptical orbit around Mars.

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ESA Delays Second Part of ExoMars Mission to 2020

Prototype ExoMars rover. (Credit: Airbus Defence and Space)
Prototype ExoMars rover. (Credit: Airbus Defence and Space)

PARIS (ESA PR) — On 14 March 2016, the Roscosmos State Corporation and the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the jointly-developed ExoMars 2016 interplanetary mission, comprising the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli lander, on a Proton rocket from Baikonur, thus marking the first phase in the European-Russian ExoMars cooperation programme. The success achieved by Russian and European experts involved in ExoMars 2016 is the result of long and fruitful cooperation. The ExoMars 2016 spacecraft are due to arrive at Mars in October 2016.

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Roscosmos Denies Anomaly With Proton Upper Stage

Artist’s impression depicting the separation of the ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli, from the Trace Gas Orbiter, and heading for Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab)
Artist’s impression depicting the separation of the ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli, from the Trace Gas Orbiter, and heading for Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab)

Roscosmos has denied that the Breeze-M upper stage used to send ESA’s ExoMars mission to Mars malfunctioned.

Briefing reporters in Moscow, Igor A. Komarov reiterated statements made by Proton prime contractor Khrunichev Space Center of Moscow, saying the Breeze-M upper stage separated ExoMars without incident and then proceeded with the standard passivation and collision-avoidance maneuvers.

Komarov said he had seen photos taken from a Brazilian ground telescope that appeared to show small objects in the vicinity of the Breeze-M stage and ExoMars.

“I do have these pictures, provided by the Brazilian observatory, showing the ExoMars spacecraft surrounded by some dimly illuminated objects reportedly related to the upper stage,” Komarov said.

“Telemetry and other objectively verifiable data available to us, covering the entire time from the separation and the contamination and collision avoidance maneuvers to the passivation of the upper stage, show that all these steps have been performed successfully, without any anomalies,” Komarov said. “There is absolutely no indication of an upper-stage explosion or breakup.”

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