Exomars launch no earlier than 2028

The launch of the ExoMars mission is unlikely to take place before 2028. This was stated by one of the project engineers Jorge Vago at a meeting of the MEPAG working group (Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group). It was created by NASA to help plan and coordinate Martian missions.

Exclusion of Russia from the ExoMars project

The ExoMars mission was supposed to launch to the Red Planet in September 2022. The purpose of the mission was to deliver the Russian landing platform “Kazachok” and the European rover Rosalind Franklin to the Red Planet. The last had to search for biomarkers — compounds that could indicate the possibility of the existence of life on Mars in the past or even now.

Ground model of the Rosalind Franklin rover in a Martian simulator. Source: Thales Alenia Space

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine put an end to these plans. In protest, the European Space Agency (ESA) decided to completely discontinue cooperation with the aggressor country. After that, the agency began consultations with NASA for assistance in the “reset” of the mission.

New ExoMars Launch Date

The refusal of Russian services has put ExoMars in a difficult position: the mission needs a new carrier and a new landing platform. And if the first issue is completely solved (NASA can provide several replacement carriers), the creation of a new landing platform is a much more complex task, which will take a lot of time to solve.

Earlier, the ESA CEO stated that due to the situation with the platform, the launch of ExoMars is unlikely to take place before 2026. But, according to Jorge Vago, considering the complexity of the task and the time required for its construction and subsequent testing, ExoMars is likely to be launched only in 2028. At the same time, ESA will need NASA’s help in creating landing engines similar to those used to land the Curiosity and Perseverance rovers.

The open dome of the ExoMars supersonic parachute during testing. Source: ESA

The second direction in which ESA will not be able to do without American support is the creation of a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG). It generates the heat needed to keep ExoMars from freezing during the cold Martian nights. ESA does not have the technology to manufacture RTGs and cannot independently replace the Russian RTG without the help of NASA.

Another important issue is related to the trajectory of ExoMars. One of the options under consideration involves a relatively fast flight to Mars. But at the same time, the rover’s arrival will take place a month before the expected start of the dust storm season at the landing site. An alternative trajectory involves a flight lasting two years, with a landing six months before the start of the storm season.

ExoMars participation in the project for the delivery of Martian soil

It should be noted that when launched in 2028, ExoMars will arrive at the Red Planet simultaneously with the MSR mission, the purpose of which is to deliver samples of Martian soil to Earth. In this regard, NASA and ESA are exploring the possibility of using ExoMars in the project. Recall that the rover is equipped with a unique drill capable of extracting samples from a depth of up to two meters, which far exceeds the capabilities of the same Perseverance rover.

According to https://spacenews.com

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