Image: ExoMars 2016 trace gas orbiter fuelled for Mars

February 23, 2016
Credit: TAS-F/Y. Le Marchand

The ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter being fuelled at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

In March, Europe's new era of Mars exploration begins with the launch of the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and Schiaparelli. After a seven-month journey through space, Schiaparelli will separate from the orbiter on 16 October and head towards the planet's surface, where it will land three days later, on Meridiani Planum.

Meanwhile, the orbiter will begin to manoeuvre into orbit and, after a year of aerobraking, will begin science operations.

Any long journey requires an ample supply of fuel and, 21 February, fuelling of TGO began. This spacecraft has one fuel tank and one oxidiser tank, each with a capacity of 1207 litres. When fuelling is complete, the tanks will contain about 1.5 tonnes of MON (mixed oxides of nitrogen) and 1 tonne of MMH (monomethylhydrazine).

The propellant is needed for the main engine and the 10 thrusters (plus 10 backup thrusters) that are used for fine targeting and critical manoeuvres.

Even the propellants have had a long : both were procured via Gerling Holz in Germany, brought by ship to St Petersburg in Russia, and then by train to the cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan.

Since fuelling is a hazardous exercise, only essential staff – wearing protective suits – are allowed in the fuelling area. A team from Thales Alenia Space France is in Baikonur to take care of TGO fuelling, as they did for Schiaparelli. While this activity is under way, the fire brigade, doctor, security and safety officers are on hand.

The launch window for the Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli is open 14–25 March 2016.

Explore further: NASA radio delivered for Europe's 2016 Mars orbiter

Related Stories

NASA radio delivered for Europe's 2016 Mars orbiter

July 8, 2014

(Phys.org) —The first of two NASA Electra radios that will fly aboard the European Space Agency's next mission to Mars has been delivered for installation onto the ESA ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO).

ExoMars 2016 targets March launch window

September 21, 2015

A problem recently discovered in two sensors in the propulsion system of the entry, descent and landing demonstrator module has prompted the recommendation to move the launch of the ExoMars 2016 mission, initially foreseen ...

Image: On the rim of Schiaparelli crater

November 23, 2015

A 42 km-wide impact crater and numerous smaller craters straddle the northwestern rim of the 460 km-diameter Schiaparelli basin in this image taken by ESA's Mars Express on 15 July 2010.

Video: Launch to Mars

February 17, 2016

Animation visualising milestones during the launch of the ExoMars 2016 mission and its cruise to Mars. The mission comprises the Trace Gas Orbiter and an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, which ...

Recommended for you

First stars formed even later than previously thought

August 31, 2016

ESA's Planck satellite has revealed that the first stars in the Universe started forming later than previous observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background indicated. This new analysis also shows that these stars were the ...

Dawn sets course for higher orbit

August 31, 2016

After studying Ceres for more than eight months from its low-altitude science orbit, NASA's Dawn spacecraft will move higher up for different views of the dwarf planet.

Galaxy cluster discovered at record-breaking distance

August 31, 2016

A new record for the most distant galaxy cluster has been set using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes. This galaxy cluster may have been caught right after birth, a brief, but important stage of evolution ...

The rise and fall of galaxy formation

August 30, 2016

An international team of astronomers, including Carnegie's Eric Persson, has charted the rise and fall of galaxies over 90 percent of cosmic history. Their work, which includes some of the most sensitive astronomical measurements ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.