Airbus has been chosen by the European Area Company (ESA) as prime contractor for the Mars Pattern Return’s Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) – the primary ever spacecraft to convey samples again to Earth from Mars.
Mars Pattern Return (MSR) is a joint ESA-NASA marketing campaign and the subsequent step within the exploration of Mars. ERO and the Pattern Fetch Rover (SFR) are the 2 predominant European components of MSR, each are set to be designed and constructed by Airbus. A manipulating arm, known as the Pattern Switch Arm (STA), that may switch the samples from the SFR to the Mars Ascent Car (MAV), is the third European contribution to the MSR program. The worth of the ERO contract is € 491 million.
The 5 yr mission will see the spacecraft head to Mars, act as a communication relay with the floor missions, carry out a rendezvous with the orbiting samples and convey them safely again to Earth. Previous to launch from the Mars floor onboard the MAV, the Martian samples will probably be saved in pattern tubes and picked up by the SFR, for which Airbus has already commenced the research section.
For ERO, Airbus will use its autonomous rendezvous and docking experience constructed up over many years of expertise in optical navigation, utilizing applied sciences from the profitable ATV (Automated Switch Car) and up to date developments from JUICE, Europe’s first mission to Jupiter.
“We’re bringing the total pressure of our expertise gained on Rosetta, Mars Specific, Venus Specific, Gaia, ATV, BepiColombo, and JUICE to make sure this mission succeeds. Bringing samples again to Earth from Mars will probably be a rare feat, taking interplanetary science to a brand new degree and Airbus is worked up to tackle this problem as a part of this joint worldwide mission. ” mentioned Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Airbus Area Methods.
To be launched on an Ariane 6 in 2026, the 6 ton, 6 m excessive spacecraft, geared up with 144m² photo voltaic arrays with a span of over 40 m – among the largest ever constructed – will take a couple of yr to achieve Mars. It’s going to use a mass-efficient hybrid propulsion system combining electrical propulsion for the cruise and spiral down phases and chemical propulsion for Mars orbit insertion. Upon arrival, it’s going to present communications protection for the NASA Perseverance Rover and Pattern Retrieval Lander (SRL) missions, two important components of the MSR Marketing campaign.
For the second a part of its mission, ERO must detect, rendezvous with, and seize a basketball-size object referred to as the Orbiting Pattern (OS), which homes the pattern tubes collected by SFR; all this over 50 million km away from floor management. As soon as captured, the OS will probably be bio-sealed in a secondary containment system and positioned contained in the Earth Entry Car (EEV), successfully a 3rd containment system, to make sure that the dear samples attain the Earth’s floor intact for max scientific return. It’s going to then take one other yr for ERO to make its method again to Earth, the place it’s going to ship the EEV on a precision trajectory in direction of a pre-defined touchdown website, earlier than itself getting into right into a steady orbit across the Solar.
After touchdown, the samples will probably be transferred to a specialised dealing with facility the place they are going to be quarantined. As soon as the pattern tubes are opened, preliminary measurements will probably be taken to generate an in depth catalogue, enabling particular components of the samples to then be focused for specialist science investigations.
Airbus can have general duty for the ERO mission, creating the spacecraft in Toulouse, and conducting mission evaluation in Stevenage. Thales Alenia Area Turin will even have an essential function, assembling the spacecraft, creating the communication system and offering the Orbit Insertion Module. The mission enabling RIT-2X ion engines will probably be supplied by ArianeGroup.
Mars Pattern Return
Mars Pattern Return is a set of three individually launched missions, which is able to collectively obtain the target of returning Mars samples to Earth earlier than the top of 2031.
The NASA-led Mars 2020 rover, referred to as Perseverance, was launched in July 2020 to land on Mars in February 2021. Perseverance will purchase Mars samples, cache them into pattern tubes, and depart the tubes in a number of depots for later assortment by the SRL mission and its European Pattern Fetch Rover.
The NASA-led SRL is to be launched in 2026 and contains a floor platform with a European robotic Pattern Switch Arm (STA), the Pattern Fetch Rover (SFR), and a Mars Ascent Car (MAV). The floor platform will land within the close to neighborhood of the pattern tube depot within the Jezero crater. SFR will navigate, find and acquire the pattern tubes, and return to the lander platform. The STA will switch the pattern tubes into the Orbiting Pattern (OS) then load the OS aboard the MAV. The MAV will launch the OS into Mars orbit, the place ERO will probably be ready to rendezvous and seize it.
The ESA-led Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) can be to be launched in 2026 and can have onboard the NASA-led Seize, Containment and Return System (CCRS), which is able to deal with and bio-seal the OS in addition to present the Earth Entry Car (EEV). ERO will arrive in Mars orbit on time to supply communications protection for the SRL entry, descent and touchdown, floor operations, and the MAV launch inserting the OS into Mars orbit. ERO must detect, rendezvous with, and seize the OS. The OS will then be bio-sealed and transferred to the EEV earlier than ERO heads again to Earth.
Upon strategy to Earth, ERO will launch the Earth Entry System on an Earth entry trajectory. After touchdown within the desert of Utah, the samples are transferred to a pattern receiving and curation facilit