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Russian carrier rocket delivers ExoMars spacecraft into near-Earth orbit

March 14, 12:49 UTC+3
The ExoMars journey to the fourth planet from the Sun will take seven months
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© Denis Mitrofanov/TASS, archive

BAIKONUR, March 14. /TASS/. The space vehicles of the Russian-European inter-planetary mission ExoMars-2016 have successfully separated from the third stage of Russia’s Proton-M carrier rocket, the State Space Corporation Roscosmos told TASS on Monday.

The Russian Proton-M carrier rocket with the spacecraft of the ExoMars inter-planetary mission blasted off earlier on Monday from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan.

"The Briz-M acceleration unit separated jointly with the ExoMars-2016 space vehicles from the third stage of the Proton-M carrier rocket. The space vehicles were delivered into the near-Earth orbit," Roscosmos said.

The first ignition of the engines of the Briz-M acceleration unit proceeded in a normal mode, Roscosmos Head Igor Komarov said.

"The first ignition proceeded in a nominal regime," he said.

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The 2016 ExoMars mission involves two space vehicles: the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) that will analyze the composition of the Mars atmosphere and transmit the relevant data to the Earth and the Schiaparelli landing module that will practice maneuvers to enter the Martian atmosphere, descend and land on the Red Planet.

The ExoMars journey to the fourth planet from the Sun will take seven months. The ExoMars space vehicles are expected to separate on October 16 so that the Schiaparelli landing module can enter the Martian atmosphere on October 19 and the TGO can enter Mars' orbit.

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

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 in December 2015.

"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.

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

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