ExoMars is a joint endeavor between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos), with the Italian Space Agency (ASI) playing a strong role as major contributor within the ESA State Members, that also developed a laser micro-reflector called INRRI (INstrument for landing-Roving laser Retroreflector Investigations) together with National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN). It is developed by a European industrial consortium led by Thales Alenia Space and involving almost 134 Space companies from ESA State members.
ExoMars is the first mission in ESA's Aurora exploration program, comprising two separate missions. The first mission: Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) was launched in 2016 and is currently investigating the presence of methane and other trace gases in the Martian atmosphere, possible proofs of an active life presence. Mastering these key phases is a prerequisite for any future human exploration of Mars. The TGO will also act as communications relay to transmit data between the Earth and Martian rovers used on subsequent missions. The second mission in this program, to be launched in 2020, will include an autonomous European rover, capable of taking soil samples down to a depth of two meters, and analyzing their chemical, physical and biological properties.
Thales Alenia Space
Thales Alenia Space is the Prime Contractor and is responsible for all planning on both missions. For the 2016 mission, it developed the EDM (Entry Descent Module) module for entry and descent onto Mars and the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO). For the mission in 2020 in addition to the responsibility for the whole system development, Thales Alenia Space has been developing the control, navigation and guidance system of the Carrier Module and Descent Module of the Rover system project including its integration, and the Analytical Laboratory Drawer (ALD). For the latter the Company is also responsible for its integration and test. This is the laboratory equipped with the special drill, able to acquire Martian soil samples by drilling into a depth of two metres.
In 2013 Telespazio, through its subsidiary Telespazio VEGA Deutschland was awarded two contract by ESA. The first to develop the ExoMars Mission Control System (MCS), which is used to monitor and control the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), the second to develop an operational simulator which supports the testing of the ExoMars ground infrastructure, including the mission control system and the flight control system.
For the 2020 Mission, in 2015 Telespazio took on the responsibility for the design, development and maintenance of the Rover Operation Control Centre (ROCC) Ground Communication Infrastructure (RGCI). The RGCI is the communication infrastructure which provides the Rover Operation Control Centre with all the necessary communication to manage the operations of the ExoMars Rover, particularly to send commands and receive telemetry data.
In addition, for the 2020 Mission, Telespazio VEGA Deutschland, has been selected by ESOC to develop the operational simulator for the second spacecraft, provided for the ExoMars Programme.
Airborne &Space Systems Division
The Airborne & Space Systems Division technology is operating on-board the 2016 mission, having supplied the photovoltaic power generators, the units that will process and distribute electric power throughout the satellite (the PCU – Power Conditioning Unit - and PCDU – Propulsion Control and Distribution Unit) and two electric power distribution boards for the EDM module’s CTPU (Central Terminal and Power Unit). The Division also supplied the TGO star trackers (AA-STR) and the core of the CASSIS optronic observation system.
For the 2020 mission, in addition to the A-STR star trackers, the Airborne & Space Systems Division will provide the photovoltaic assemblies which will power the spacecraft and rover and will produce the special drill which, for the first time, will dig down into the Martian surface to a 2 meter depth that could reveal past or current signs of life. The drill bit will contain the Division MA_MISS spectrometer (Mars Multispectral Imager for Subsurface Studies), funded by ASI, which will analyse the geological and biological properties of the soil under the surface of Mars.