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ExoMars rover leaves UK for testing ahead of launch

Posted 27 August 2019 · Add Comment

The European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover is leaving the UK for Airbus in Toulouse where it will undergo crucial testing ahead of delivery to Thales Alenia Space.


 
The ExoMars rover 'Rosalind Franklin' will be Europe’s first planetary rover and is being assembled at Airbus in Stevenage. It will search for signs of past or present life on Mars and is equipped with a 2m drill to take samples from below the surface where they will have been protected from the harsh radiation environment.
 
The rover features nine instruments which will help scientists conduct a step-by-step exploration of Mars, from a panoramic scale and progressively converging to smaller (sub-millimetre) studies, concluding with the molecular identification of organic compounds.

The rover is equipped with an autonomous navigation system developed by Airbus which will enable it to travel between sites of interest much more quickly than by being driven remotely in real time from Earth.
 
Rosalind Franklin is being installed in its special protective container in Stevenage for the journey to Toulouse for environmental testing to prepare it for launch. 

It is due to leave the Airbus site in UK on 28th August. Launch of the rover to the Red Planet is scheduled for July 2020.

The rover is part of ESA’s ExoMars mission to examine the geological environment on Mars and search for signs of life, past or present.

Dr Graham Turnock, CEO of the UK Space Agency, said: "This is a major milestone for this exciting project which demonstrates the UK’s leading capabilities in robotics, space engineering and exploration, as well as our ongoing commitment to the European Space Agency.

"As we hand the rover over to France for final testing, we should celebrate the huge efforts of the hundreds of people across the UK who have been involved in the design and build of the rover and its instruments, which will look for life on Mars.

Last week the panoramic camera system which will allow the rover to ‘see’ was successfully fitted. With funding and support from the UK Space Agency and European Space Agency (ESA), PanCam was developed in Britain by scientists from UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL), working with the University of Aberystwyth and dozens of other experts across the UK in partnership with colleagues in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and scientists from nine nations.

UK scientists from the University of Leicester and Teledyne e2v worked on the rover’s Raman Spectrometer, a powerful tool for the identification and characterisation of Martian minerals. The UK Science and Technology Facilities Council provided electronics, including the data processing board.

Colin Paynter, Managing Director of Airbus Defence and Space UK, said: "Seeing the Rosalind Franklin rover finally leave Airbus in Stevenage is a great moment, and I would like to thank all the teams involved for their efforts in making this happen. This European flagship mission now moves to the next stage for final testing and one step closer to launching to the Red Planet next summer."

 


 

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