Bremen/Oberpfaffenhofen, March 28, 2019. The ExoMars mission has reached its final spurt: the carrier module, which was built by OHB in Bremen, left the company’s premises in Bremen late yesterday evening to undergo extensive testing in Turin (Italy) and Cannes (France). ExoMars is a joint project being pursued by ESA and the Russian space agency Roskosmos to search for traces of life on the Red Planet. The ExoMars program is divided into two missions: the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and an entry and landing module were launched in 2016. As a subcontractor to Thales Alenia Space, OHB System AG was responsible for the TGO’s core module, the largest German contribution to the first mission.
With this second ExoMars mission known as “ExoMars Rover and Surface Platform Mission” (RSP), OHB’s carrier module is scheduled to transport a descent and landing module as well as a European rover to Mars in July 2020.
The rover is located inside the landing module. When the landing module lands on Mars, it will unfold, allowing the rover to leave it while the fixed station remains at the landing site. It will be carrying Russian and European experiments on board, including those contributed by OHB subsidiary AntwerpSpace. The schedule for the assembly of the carrier, which is now being readied for shipping in the integration hall in Bremen, was quite tight. “There is only one launch window every 26 months for such a mission. So, of course, we had a tight schedule, which we were able to keep exactly. Everything is going according to plan,” says ExoMars carrier project manager Dr. Andreas Peukert. In the next step, the carrier module will be integrated with the landing module at Thales Alenia Space in Turin and then shipped to France (Cannes). The entire spacecraft will be tested in Cannes before being transported to the launch site in Baikonur.
OHB also involved in the Mars Rover
In addition to parts of the carrier, OHB is also supplying key elements for the Mars Rover. In this connection, it will be contributing its expertise in selecting, preparing, distributing and analyzing soil samples taken from a depth of up to two meters. To this end, OHB experts at the company’s “Optics and Science” space center have developed a high-resolution camera, a complex system built into the Rover for preparing and distributing the samples and contributions to the RAMAN/RLS laser instrument for mineralogical analyses on the planet’s surface.
To explain this more precisely: the Rover is equipped with a drill. The analytical laboratory drawer (ALD), the sample preparation and distribution system (SPDS) and various instruments are located inside the Rover. The SPDS and the ALD are enclosed in a gas-tight ultra clean zone (UCZ) to protect the ExoMars instruments from biological and chemical contamination on the earth. “OHB Oberpfaffenhoffen is responsible for the development, production, integration and qualification of the ALD structure and harness as well as the SPDS,” says Christiane Bergemann, ALD/SPDS project manager.