Tag Archives: ExoMars2020

ExoMars2020 parachute tests delayed until late March

The European Space Agency (ESA) has decided to delay until late March the next high altitude tests of the revamped ExoMars2020 parachutes, despite the success of recent ground tests.

The tests of the 15-meter-diameter supersonic and 35-meter-wide subsonic parachutes—an essential part of the entry, descent and landing phase of the mission—had been scheduled for December and February. The delay comes despite six ground tests demonstrating successful parachute extraction – the point at which damage was caused in earlier, failed high altitude tests.

Both tests need to be successful for the go-ahead for launch of 300-kilogram Rosalind Franklin rover during the July 25 to Aug. 13 Mars launch window. Any failure would mean a wait of 26 months for the next launch window, opening late 2022.

There will be a meeting next week of the project’s top management, from both Russia and Europe, and I strongly suspect that they are going to decide to delay launch to the 2022 launch window. Not only have the parachutes not been tested successfully at high altitude, they recently discovered an issue with the glue holding the solar panel hinges on the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover.

Europe considering delaying ExoMars2020 two years

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.

ExoMars2020 passes new parachute tests

Revisions to Europe’s ExoMars2020 parachutes have successfully passed tests at JPL in California.

Working with Nasa, ESA made modifications to the way the parachutes are released from the bag, which avoids creating so much friction. Using a special rig at JPL, the parachutes have now been tested up to their expected extraction speed of just over 200km/h with no sign of damage. Further confirmatory tests will now take place.

Time remains very short however. The launch window for ExoMars2020 is this coming summer.