17/10/2016

ExoMars Schiaparelli probe is on course to land on Mars

A new milestone has been reached in ExoMars 2016, the first of the two Mars exploration missions pursued as part of a broad cooperation between ESA and Roscosmos. The successful separation of the Entry, Descent, and Landing Demonstrator (EDM, named Schiaparelli) and the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) took place last Sunday October 16th at 16:42 CEST, which was the planned time for the operation.

After the successful separation from the TGO, Schiaparelli will get closer and closer to Mars, culminating with the Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) phases on October 19th. Following 7 months of orbit transfers, these last phases will take only 6 minutes, but they represent the key part of the Schiaparelli mission. During this “six minutes of terror”, as NASA has defined them, Schiaparelli will slow down from 21000 km/h to just 3 m/s at Mars touchdown. In order to slow down in the tiny Martian atmosphere, the module will make use of the capsule aeroshell, one parachute, liquid retrorockets and a crushable landing system.

Within the framework of the ExoMars programme, Elecnor Deimos has been chiefly involved in the end-to-end mission design and analysis, from launch to landing on Mars. The company has been responsible for the design and analysis of the performances of the Schiaparelli module from its separation from the TGO to the landing on the Martian surface. The success in the landing has therefore a unique value for Elecnor Deimos, representing a unique asset for the company in the field of planetary probe exploration, particularly regarding Mission Analysis and Atmospheric Flight, as well as a new demonstration of its capabilities in space exploration missions.

Schiaparelli’s successful separation from the TGO has triggered the Entry, Descent and Landing phases, led by Elecnor Deimos

“We are very excited by knowing that Schiaparelli has separated from the TGO as planned. Our team has been working in strict collaboration with the prime contractor Thales Alenia Space Italia for over ten years and the moment to enjoy the ExoMars 2016 EDL has finally come. After crossing the EIP (120 km altitude) the hot part of the mission will start: knowing that Schiaparelli is currently following the trajectory that we’ve designed is really thrilling. So far, only 8 missions worldwide have reached the surface of Mars and transmitted data back to Earth; we hope to improve the list and be part of the amazing history of planetary exploration” says Davide Bonetti, head of the Atmospheric Flight Competence Centre at Deimos Space.

The next events and phases to follow, according to the latest flight predictions made by the Atmospheric Flight team on 11th of October 2016, are summarized on the following table:

ExoMars Separation EDL Landing

Entry, Descent and Landing phases and events © Elecnor Deimos

The following figure shows the evolution of the co-rotating velocity of Schiaparelli while it gets closer and closer to the Martian surface, going through the latest phases of its flight until the landing on Mars:

ExoMars Separation EDL Landing

Co-rotating velocity from Separation to Touchdown © Elecnor Deimos

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