Tuesday, March 15, 2016

ESA’s Control Center Establishes Contact with the ExoMars Spacecraft

Artist’s impression depicting the ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli, on the Trace Gas Orbiter, and heading for Mars. Credit: ESA–David Ducros

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) control center in Germany’s Darmstadt received first signals from the Mars-bound Space vehicles of the Russian-European interplanetary mission ExoMars 2016, a spokesman for the Russian Mission Control said. "We have received a report confirming a signal from the ExoMars interplanetary station," the spokesman said.

The Trace Gas Orbiter and the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator lifted off on a Proton-M rocket operated by Russia’s Roscosmos at 09:31 GMT (10:31 CET) on Monday, Mar. 14 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

Following separation of Proton’s first and second stages, the payload fairing was released. The third stage separated nearly 10 minutes after liftoff.

The Briz-M upper stage, with ExoMars attached, then completed a series of four burns before the spacecraft was released at 20:13 GMT (21:13 CET).

Signals from the spacecraft, received at ESA’s control center, via the Malindi ground tracking station in Africa at 21:29 GMT (22:29 CET), confirmed that the launch was fully successful and the spacecraft is in good health.

The orbiter’s solar wings have also now unfolded and the craft is on its way to Mars.

“It’s been a long journey getting the first ExoMars mission to the launch pad, but thanks to the hard work and dedication of our international teams, a new era of Mars exploration is now within our reach,” says Johann-Dietrich Woerner, ESA’s Director General.

The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and Schiaparelli will travel to Mars together before separating on Oct. 16 at distance of 900,000 km from the planet.

Then, on Oct. 19, Schiaparelli will enter the martian atmosphere, descending to the surface in just under six minutes.

Credit: ESATASS

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