National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
News & Events
Mars Express Breaks Speed Records Without Leaving Earth
Mars Express Breaks Speed Records Without Leaving Earth
22 Nov 2002
(Source: European Space Agency)

ESA Science News

22 Nov 2002

Driving force behind Mars Express

The Ferrari Red Paint will not be the only thing breaking all speed records when it hurtles towards the Red Planet on-board the Mars Express spacecraft in 2003. The spacecraft itself has already broken some speed records of its own. Mars Express is the fastest-built satellite of its type in the history of space engineering.

The unique way in which ESA drove the Mars Express project cut the amount of time from the original concept to actually putting contractors to work from the usual five years to just one year. Moreover, two years were shaved off the design and building phase -- cutting it from the usual six to four years. However, there has been no compromise on the quality of the mission.

By stepping on the accelerator in this way, ESA has also cut the cost of the mission in half. Mars Express will have been built and launched with a total budget of 203 million Euros (at 2001 economic conditions). This budget pays for the building of the spacecraft, the launch by a Russian Soyuz-Fregat launcher, all the scientific operations and administration cost, and the elaborate series of tests that any satellite has to endure to ensure its effectiveness.

Although these costs show good value for money, Mars Express has maintained strict quality on its engineering. Scientists built the spacecraft largely using technology that has already been developed for other space missions. Up to 80% of the hardware making up Mars Express was originally designed for Rosetta, ESA's satellite that will be the first in history to land on a comet.

The name 'Mars Express' perfectly sums up the extremely efficient way that ESA has steered the mission. However, the original 'Express' name was for a quite different reason. Scientists chose the name to reflect the fact that by being launched in the Summer of 2003, the spacecraft will have the shortest journey to reach the Red Planet. It is at that moment that Earth and Mars make their closest approach to each other for 17 years.

The same 'Express' name has been given to the Venus Express mission. Venus Express, due for launch in November 2005, will reuse the Mars Express spacecraft design. It will also benefit from the project teams already established both at ESA and industry-wide, to reduce costs substantially.

The success of the Mars Express project is a demonstration of how ESA's working methods are changing. In addition, ESA has launched a new initiative called DevILS that will cut costs and building times even further. The aim of DevILS is to develop 'intelligent', lightweight spacecraft systems that ESA can use on future missions.



[Image 1:] Mars Express.

[Image 2:] Roll-out of the Soyuz-Fregat launcher. The rollout is carried out by train over a distance of about 500 m. The train has a special wagon providing air-conditioning to the Cluster pair inside the fairing. Baikonur, 6 August 2000.

News Archive Search  Go!
Show  results per page
Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writers: Courtney O'Connor and Bill Dunford
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 27 Nov 2002