In search of life on Mars
OHB awarded contracts for planned AURORA missions
Bremen-based space technology company OHB-System AG has been awarded two contracts to conduct feasibility studies on missions in search of life on Mars. Known as Exomars and forming part of the European Space Agency’s AURORA program, the project is to pave the way for future manned missions to the “Red Planet” as of 2009. Exomars comprises an orbiter, a landing vehicle and a robot which will not only search for traces of life but also explore water distribution as well as the chemical composition of rocks on Mars. In a project for Alenia Spazio, Turin, scheduled for completion by mid 2004, OHB is developing the technical specifications for the landing vehicle particularly in connection with entry into the Martian atmosphere and the landing of the robot.
A further study under the European Space Agency’s AURORA program will entail the return of Martian samples (Earth Entry Vehicle Demonstration). A vehicle returning to the earth from Mars will have to withstand far greater strain upon re-entering the atmosphere compared with a vehicle in a low orbit. EADS Space Transportation, Bordeaux, has assigned OHB with the task of developing a launcher for transporting the Earth-Entry Vehicle. This will entail finding the optimum re-entry conditions for the Mars Sample Return Capsule during its critical return to the earth.
As well as this, OHB will be calculating the optimum time windows and flight paths for both missions.
Several months ago OHB was already awarded a contract for the development of an inflatable heat shield to permit vehicles to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere safely and less expensively. Together with the new studies, this project is strengthening the company’s expertise in re-entry technology.