The Mars Surface Platform Capabilities (MSPC) ESA-funded study determines how to capitalize and improve on the Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) system of the 2016 ExoMars Schiaparelli mission. MSPC leverages the knowledge gained from ExoMars Schiaparelli, and converts its architecture it into a multi-purpose science platform of moderate size and cost. The Final Project Review on 2 February 2021 was successful. ESA now considers further development of this next generation European Mars lander.
Compared to Schiaparelli, MSPC has increased redundancy and EDL capabilities. Despite its hard landing, Schiaparelli returned a trove of flight data. These were used to reduce uncertainty margins on the EDL systems and vehicle design. Applying the lessons learned from Schiaparelli, and drawing on the ongoing developments for ExoMars 2022, the MSPC study established an entry mass of at least 681 kg, compared to Schiaparelli’s 600 kg. The additional mass can be used for scientific instruments and supporting hardware. It enables scientific operations on Mars (e.g. surface platform, or a Sojourner-sized rover). This was not possible with Schiaparelli.
DEIMOS Space has quantified how the proposed improvements in MSPC translate into EDL performance. High-fidelity trajectory simulations have been performed, using the Local Entry Corridor (LEC) and Global Entry Corridor (GEC) proprietary tools used previously to design Schiaparelli. Contrary to Schiaparelli, the MSPC platform can handle increasing amounts of payload mass as the landing site elevation reduces. Schiaparelli was limited by heat flux during its hypersonic entry, which made it less flexible. Many of the improvements in MSPC are a direct result of the post–flight analysis of the ExoMars Schiaparelli mission, to which DEIMOS Space contributed significantly.
MSPC opens up the possibility of customizing its EDL system to the landing site. Global terrain accessibility has been determined along the equator by DEIMOS Space and is very promising (see figure). In addition, DEIMOS Space and Thales Alenia Space Italy (the prime of the contract) have identified technology developments that would solidify and extend the MSPC architecture further.