Airbus contracted to bring back samples from Mars

Rodiano Bonacci
Ottobre 17, 2020

The European Space Agency has commissioned work on elements of its lunar and Martian exploration programs, ranging from modules for the lunar gate to a mission to return Mars samples to Earth.

"Bringing samples back to Earth from Mars will be an extraordinary feat, taking interplanetary science to a new level and Airbus is excited to take on this challenge as part of this joint global mission". "This gives us new opportunities to get into low-earth orbit, to the moon and to Mars and to do this together", said ESA Director General Jan Woerner at the IAC.

Additionally, Thales Alenia Space Turin will be responsible for spacecraft assembling, development of the communication system and providing Orbit Insertion Module.

Airbus has a contract worth 57 577.1 million.

Sample returns are expected to begin by the end of the decade and end of the five-year period.

"I-Hab is one of the most important, if not the most important element on the gateway", said Massimo Claudio Comparini, Senior Executive Vice President at Thales Alenia Space, in an interview. Besides providing living space for visiting crews, it will have additional docking ports for visiting vehicles. Autonomous and remote operations will also come to the fore, as the gateway, unlike the ISS, will only have crews on board occasionally.

I-Hab is scheduled for launch in 2026. ESPRIT consists of two elements that are started separately. Its telecommunications element will be installed on Northrop Grumman's Habitation and Logistics Outpost module, which will launch with the Power and Propulsion Element in 2023.

Airbus will continue the Mars Sample Return (MSR) campaign, which has been contracted to design and build the Earth Return Bit Rebar (ERO). The orbiter, which will launch in 2026, will go into orbit around Mars and collect a sample canister launched from a NASA-developed lander, also launching in 2026. The orbiter will then return the samples to Earth, arriving in 2031.

Airbus Defense and Space will be the prime contractor for the Earth Return Orbiter.

The contract for the orbiter is valued at 491 million euros.

Along with the ERO, Airbus will build another spacecraft, the Sample Fat Rover (SFR). The company has signed a contract with ESA for the service modules for the first three Orion spaceships.

"It's a great day for Airbus".

"Bringing samples back to Earth from Mars will be a unique feat, taking interdisciplinary science to a new level and Airbus is excited about this new challenge as part of this joint global mission", said Airbus President Jean-Marc Nasser.

They have also been selected by the ESA for the study phase of a landing gear module module, or European Large Logistics Lander, or EL3, which will have the capacity to carry 1.7 tons of cargo to the moon. ESA envisions using the lander starting in the late 2020s for delivering cargo to support future human missions as well as for science missions, including lunar sample return. A call for ideas this summer for potential applications of EL3 led to 300 proposals, which he said are being used to develop "model missions" to support those studies.

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