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Martian atmosphere to brake spacecraft in year-long descent to Red Planet landing

December 10, 2015, 17:25 UTC+3 MOSCOW
After reaching the Martian orbit, the Russian-European interplanetary station will perform an atmospheric braking maneuver, which has not been performed by any spacecraft before, scientists say
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Base of Mount Sharp on planet Mars

Base of Mount Sharp on planet Mars

© EPA/NASA JPL CALTECH MSSS

MOSCOW, December 10. /TASS/. The Russian-European interplanetary station on its way to the Red Planet under the ExoMars project will make a unique deep space maneuver for the first time in history to lower its orbit by braking against the Martian atmosphere, a source in the rocket and space industry told TASS on Thursday.

"Normally, the flight along the Earth-Mars route follows the trajectory called the direct flight when a spacecraft blasts off from the Earth and brakes near Mars," the source said.

"Considering that the ballistic conditions are not the most favorable for such a flight in 2016, a decision has been made to slightly complicate the flight and make a deep space maneuver by firing the interplanetary station's engines in the intermediate orbit," the source added.

After reaching the Martian orbit, the interplanetary station will perform an atmospheric braking maneuver, which has not been performed by any spacecraft before, he said. A standard maneuver can’t be held, considering the amount of fuel aboard the station, he added.

"That is why, it has been proposed that the spacecraft should quit the highly elliptical and join the circular orbit by consistently touching the atmosphere," the source said.

The launch of the interplanetary station as part of the first stage of the ExoMars project is scheduled for March 2016.

Russia’s Roscosmos and the European Space Agency will implement the first stage of the ExoMars joint project in 2016, using two space vehicles.

The TGO (Trace Gas Orbiter) module will analyze the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere and transmit collected data. The second module, the Schiaparelli demonstration landing vehicle, will practice maneuvers to enter the Martian atmosphere, descend and land on the Red Planet.

The ExoMars space vehicles are expected to arrive at the Baikonur space center by mid-December. A Russian-made Proton-M carrier rocket with a Briz-M acceleration unit will be used to bring the spacecraft into outer space.

Two more modules are planned to be sent to Mars in 2018.

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