Mars Express Gearing Up For Launch
2 May 2003
(Source: Alenia Spazio)
Mars Express at the Baikonur cosmodrome preparing for June launch Alenia Spazio
April 30, 2003
The European Space Agency's Mars Express interplanetary probe, built with the contribution of Alenia Spazio, left Toulouse, where it underwent extensive environmental, thermal, mechanical and electrical testing, under the co-ordination of the Alenia Spazio team, in March and is now undergoing checks and tests in at the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan.
Scheduled for an early June launch on a Soyuz-Fregat rocket, and in a fixed launch window occurring only once every 17 years, Mars Express will make a 400 million kilometre, six-month journey to reach the Red Planet in December 2003.
Once inserted into an elliptical, quasi-polar orbit around Mars, the spacecraft - the first European mission to a planet - will begin the orbital and in situ study of its interior, surface and atmosphere using seven scientific instruments on the orbiter and the Beagle 2 lander that will be placed on the surface.
Alenia Spazio has played an important role in the Mars Express mission with overall responsibility for the assembly, integration and testing of the satellite, development of the dual S/X band transponder, the Sub-surface Sounding Radar Altimeter, and a pair of communication systems for the Orbiter/Lander link.
Another major Italian contribution is the radar for the MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding) experiment that will be used to detect the presence of water-bearing strata up to a depth of 2-5 km beneath the Martian surface.