Airbus mentioned that the ESA contract is valued at $575m and the mission is ready to be launched on an Arianespace Ariane 6 in 2026.
Airbus has been chosen by the European House Company (ESA) as prime contractor for the Mars Pattern Return’s Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) – the first-ever spacecraft to carry samples again to earth from Mars.
Mars Pattern Return (MSR) is a joint ESA-NASA marketing campaign and the following step within the exploration of Mars. ERO and the Pattern Fetch Rover (SFR) are the 2 primary European parts 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 programme. The worth of the ERO contract is round $575m.
The five-year 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 produce them safely again to earth.
Previous to launch from the Mars floor onboard the MAV, the Martian samples will likely be saved in pattern tubes and picked up by the SFR, for which Airbus has already commenced the research part.
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.
To be launched on an Ariane 6 in 2026, the 6-ton, 6m excessive spacecraft, outfitted with 144m² photo voltaic arrays with a span of over 40m – among the largest ever constructed – will take a few 12 months to succeed in 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 can 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 should 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 50m km away from floor management.
As soon as captured, the OS will likely 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 valuable samples attain the earth’s floor intact for the utmost scientific return.
It’s going to then take one other 12 months for ERO to make its method again to earth, the place it can ship the EEV on a precision trajectory in the direction of a pre-defined touchdown website, earlier than itself coming into right into a secure orbit across the Solar.
After touchdown, the samples will likely 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 likely 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, growing the spacecraft in Toulouse, and conducting mission evaluation in Stevenage. Thales Alenia House Turin can even have an vital function, assembling the spacecraft, growing the communication system and offering the Orbit Insertion Module. The mission-enabling RIT-2X ion engines will likely be offered by ArianeGroup.
“We’re bringing the complete drive of our expertise gained on Rosetta, Mars Categorical, Venus Categorical, Gaia, ATV, BepiColombo, and JUICE to make sure this mission succeeds. Bringing samples again to earth from Mars will likely be a unprecedented feat, taking interplanetary science to a brand new degree and Airbus is happy to tackle this problem as a part of this joint worldwide mission,” mentioned Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Airbus House Methods.