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ExoMars spacecraft adjusts flight trajectory en route to Red Planet

July 28, 2016, 19:55 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The aim of the maneuver is to ensure that a bunch of space vehicles reach the Martian orbit on the designated date of arrival

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© ESA/ATG medialab

MOSCOW, July 28. /TASS/. The Russian-European interplanetary station ExoMars fired its main engine on Thursday for a 50-minute Deep Space Maneuver to adjust the flight trajectory en route to the Red Planet, Russia’s Space Research Institute, the producer of equipment for the Martian mission, told TASS on Thursday.

"The aim of the maneuver is to ensure that a bunch of the TGO/Schiaparelli space vehicles reach the Martian highly elliptical orbit on the designated date of arrival," the Institute said.

A command from the ground station in Australia was given at 12:30 p.m. Moscow time (09:30 GMT) and the adjustment lasted 50 minutes. The engine was fired to give the space probe an impulse of 326m/s. The maneuver was carried out at a distance of 83 million km from the Earth while slightly over 23 million km still remain for the spacecraft to reach Mars. Another maneuver is scheduled for August 11.

"In simple words, this [maneuver] is an important part of the mission comparable with the launch of a spacecraft, an approach to Mars or the separation of a landing module. All these stages are interrelated: you can’t climb a ladder, missing steps," researcher from the Institute’s department for space dynamics and data mathematical processing Anton Ledkov told journalists.

As was reported earlier, once the Russian-European interplanetary station reaches the orbit of Mars, it will make a unique deep space maneuver for the first time in history, braking against the Martian atmosphere.

Owing to the small amount of fuel, the spacecraft will be reaching the required circular orbit around Mars during a year, numerously touching the Martian atmosphere and braking against it.

The Russian-European mission ExoMars-2016 was launched from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan by a Proton-M carrier rocket on March 14.

The mission comprises the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli landing demonstrator module, which will reach Mars in October.

TGO will study, in particular, small gas mixtures of the atmosphere and water ice on Martian soil. Schiaparelli will practice maneuvers to enter the Martian atmosphere, descend and land on the Red Planet. It will operate for just several days on Mars until the energy capacity of its batteries is depleted. TGO is expected to reach the orbit of Mars on October 19 and on the same day Schiaparelli is set to land on the Red Planet.

The ExoMars 2nd stage envisages sending a Russian landing platform and a European rover to the Red Planet in 2020. The mission’s 2nd stage will focus on drilling and analyzing Martian soil: scientists believe that the traces of organic life could have been preserved at a depth of several meters.

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