The ExoMars 2016-Mission, including the Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli, was launched this morning at 09:31 GMT (10:31 CET) aboard a Russian Proton rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The confirmation of the spacecraft separation, solar array deployment and first acquisition of signal is scheduled today for 21:10 GMT (22:10 CET).
ExoMars2016 is a joint endeavour between ESA and Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, and comprises the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and Schiaparelli, an entry, descent and landing demonstrator.
As a part of the European industrial team, OHB System AG was responsible for developing the core module of the TGO, which comprises the structure as well as the thermal and propulsion system for the 2016 mission. The prime contractor Thales Alenia Space Italia is leading the industrial team with contractors from many ESA Member and Cooperating States, while OHB System, as member of the core industrial team, is responsible for the major German contribution to ExoMars.
The TGO will make a detailed inventory of Mars’ atmospheric gases, with particular interest in rare gases like methane, which implies that there is an active, current source. TGO aims to measure its geographical and seasonal dependence and help to determine whether it stems from a geological or biological source.
Marco Fuchs, CEO of OHB said: “The launch of ExoMars2016 marks a key step in the implementation of the full ExoMars-Program. We are very proud to be part of this ambitious international science and research program and are now looking forward to realizing also our sophisticated parts of the ExoMars2018-Mission.”
Meanwhile, Schiaparelli will demonstrate a range of technologies to enable a controlled landing on Mars in preparation for the future mission. After a seven-month cruise, the lander will separate from the TGO on 16 October and land on Mars on 19 October, for several days of activities.
TGO will then enter orbit around the Red Planet ahead of its exciting multiyear science mission. It will also serve as a data relay for the second ExoMars-Mission, comprising a rover and a surface science platform, planned for launch in 2018. The launch of ExoMars 2016 marks the beginning of a new era of Mars exploration for Europe.
About the ExoMars Program:
ExoMars is a joint project of ESA and the Russian space organization Roscosmos. It comprises two missions which will be heading for Mars in 2016 and 2018 to find answers to the important question as to whether life ever existed on that planet. To this end, it will be taking soil samples from the planet’s surface and analyzing them. The ExoMars program covers the key entry, descent, landing, drilling and exploration technologies.
The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) now is on its way to Mars together with the “Schiaparelli” landing module.
The purpose of the TGO is to find proof of methane or other atmospheric gases which indicate the existence of biological or geological processes on Mars.
The TGO has several tasks in the two missions. In the 2018 mission it will be communicating with both the fixed Russian ground station and the European rover.
The second mission with the ESA Rover and the Russian ground station is scheduled for May 2018 and will reach the planet at the beginning of 2019.