The Europe Space Agency (ESA) is considering delaying the launch of its ExoMars2020 Mars rover two years because of continuing problems with its parachutes.
According to a spokesperson for the European Space Agency (ESA), a “working-level review” for the project was held among ESA and Roscosmos officials in late January, and a preliminary assessment was forwarded to the respective heads of the space agencies, Jan Wörner of ESA and Dmitry Rogozin of Roscosmos, on February 3. “They instructed the respective inspectors general and program chiefs to submit an updated plan and schedule covering all the remaining activities necessary for an authorization to launch,” the ESA spokesperson said. “This plan will be examined by the two agency heads who will meet on 12 March to jointly agree the next steps.”
It appears that the European and Russian officials will make a public announcement about ExoMars next month. Their options include pressing ahead with a launch this year or delaying two years until the next favorable window for a launch to Mars opens. Given multiple issues with the mission, a source said a delay is the most likely option.
The parachutes are not the only problem. They have just discovered during thermal testing that the glue used in the the hinges of the rover’s solar panels comes unstuck.
In August 2019, when the parachute issues were first revealed (after much hemming and hawing by ESA officials), I predicted a 50-50 chance they’d delay. When in September 2019 the problems were found to be more serious than first admitted, I lowered the chances of meeting the 2020 launch date to less than 25%.
Right now I predict that the launch of ExoMars2020 will not occur this summer, but will be delayed until the next Martian launch window in 2022. You heard it here first.
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