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.
The main scientific objectives of the ExoMars mission are the search for traces of life on Mars, past and present, the geochemical characterization of the planet, knowledge of the environment and its geophysical aspects, and the identification of possible risks to future human missions.
Leonardo participates in the programme through its joint ventures Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio and through its Electronics Division.
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.
Telespazio is responsible for the development of some key systems for the ground segment of the mission, including the Mission Control System, used to monitor and control the Trace Gas Orbiter in 2016, and the operating simulator that supported the testing of the ExoMars ground infrastructure, including the mission and flight control systems. The activities are carried out in Darmstadt, Germany, by the Telespazio subsidiary VEGA Deutschland. The Telespazio staff operates in the ESOC teams to conduct pre-launch activities, for the LEOP, and the ordinary mission activities.
For the 2020 mission, Telespazio is responsible for the design, development and maintenance of the ROCC Ground Communication Infrastructure (RGCI), the infrastructure that provides the Rover's operating centre with the control communication necessary to conduct the Rover's operations, especially sending commands and receiving the telemetry data. The activities will take place in Rome, before moving to Turin and Darmstadt.
In addition Telespazio VEGA Deutschland, has been selected by ESOC to develop the operational simulator for the second spacecraft, provided for the ExoMars Programme.
The Electronics 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.