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A structural mockup of the cruise stage for the ExoMars-2020 mission during final assembly at RUAG Space in 2016. Credit: RUAG Space


The cruise stage for the ExoMars-2020 mission shortly after its arrival to NPO Lavochkin in January 2017. Click to enlarge. Credit: NPO Lavochkin


Propulsion system of the ExoMars-2020 lander developed at KB Khimmash in Korolev. Credit: Roskosmos


Head of NPO Lavochkin Sergei Lemeshevsky and Director General of ONPP Tekhnologiya Andrei Silkin sign a contract to develop composite structures for the ExoMars-2020 mission on April 10, 2017. Credit: ONPP Tekhnologiya

Russia continues works on ExoMars lander design

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The ExoMars-2020 spacecraft in cruise configuration as envisioned in 2016.

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At the end of January 2017, a structural mockup of the cruise stage (officially known as ExoMars Carrier Module), which will guide the ExoMars-2020 mission between Earth and Mars, arrived at NPO Lavochkin, the project's main contractor in Russia.

The mockup. assembled at RUAG Space under a contract with the European Space Agency, ESA, was integrated with the Russian-built lander (officially called Descent Module) and an adapter for a series of vibration and thermal tests, NPO Lavochkin said.

Deputy Director for Production at NPO Lavochkin A.P. Tyutyunnikov was also quoted as saying that during January and February 2017, the company was upgrading an antenna mockup for the ExoMars-2020 spacecraft based on the latest changes to the design documentation.

On March 28, ESA announced that two ancient locations on Mars -- Oxia Planum and Mawrth Vallis -- had been chosen as the final candidates for the landing of ExoMars-2020 mission.

In April, NPO Lavochkin reported that the Technical Project of the lander for the ExoMars-2020 project had been submitted for review to TsNIIMash (the chief certification center at Roskosmos), as well as to the European Space Agency, ESA, and its main industrial contractor Thales Alenia Space. From March 14 to 17, the Russian-European team held a meeting to critique the Technical Project. The participants formulated a plan of work for closing all the issues that had been raised during the meeting.

On March 24, the joint management group of Roskosmos and ESA met to review the Technical Project of the lander and to plan further actions. The official review of the Technical Project from TsNIIMash was expected in mid-April, NPO Lavochkin said.

On April 10, NPO Lavochkin awarded a 250-million ruble contract to Romashin ONPP Tekhnologiya (a part of Rostekh State Corporation) to manufacture the lander structure and elements of the descent module made out of composite materials for the ExoMars-2020 mission. A total of four sets of structures would be supplied under the deal: the first to be used for technology development, two more for dynamic and thermal testing and the final one, to be delivered in 2018, to be a flight-worthy version. The same company would also manufacture thermal control panels for the mission.

In June, ISS Reshetnev also announced that it had begun the development of the design documentation for the test version of the power stabilization and distribution unit, which would be responsible for channeling electric current from the solar panels to scientific instruments and for keeping the batteries charged on the Russian-built ExoMars lander.

During the same month, NPO Lavochkin held a meeting reviewing the status of the project during the first six months of 2017, where head of manufacturing V.P. Tsyganov reported that components of the spacecraft were in production and the chief engineer A. N. Vycherov reported the completion of the OTG framework.

Also in June, the head of a laboratory at Moscow-based Space Research Institute announced that two Russian instruments intended for installation on the ExoMars rover would be delivered to ESA before the end of the year. To improve the quality of equipment, a special military certification was instituted at NPO Lavochkin.

In the meantime, engineers at OKB MEI, a part of the RKS Corporation in Moscow, worked on upgrading 64-meter TNA-1500 antennas at Russian ground stations in Kalyazin and Medvezhi Ozera and on integrating them into the European network supporting the ExoMars-2020 mission. The Director General of OKB MEI Aleksandr Chebotarev told the Lenta.ru web site in May that his organization had planned to complete the design of the new systems before the end of the year and provide test equipment by November 2019.

One pressing issue which emerged in the first half of 2017 dealt with "planetary defense" or special measures aimed to ensure that the ExoMars lander would not contaminate Martian environment with micro-organisms from Earth. According to the Russian Academy of Sciences, RAN, delays in selecting contractors for planetary defense could cause the Russian side to miss the 2020 launch window. RAN urged Roskosmos and NPO Lavochkin to accelerate the process of contractor selection for the planetary defense work.

Russian lander for ExoMars takes shape


On July 19, a delegation led by Director General of the European Space Agency Johann-Dietrich Wörner visited NPO Lavochkin. According to the company, ESA leaders reviewed the development prototype and the antenna mockup of the Russian lander for the ExoMars-2020 mission and also saw a test stand for the control system of the lander's propulsion system.

A few weeks after the visit, Wörner told the official TASS news agency that the wheel carriage of the ExoMars rover and a number of other components had been supplied to Russia for testing. In particular, the mechanical trials would evaluate the ability of the rover to roll off the ramp which will descend from the lander to the Martian surface at an angle of around 20 degrees.

According to ESA, NPO Lavochkin and the European consortium Thales Alenia Space had consolidated all the assembly, integration and testing of the Descent Module and the Spacecraft Composite for the ExoMars-2020 project.

First tests of the descent module


In October, NPO Lavochkin announced that the first tests of the structural mockup of the descent module for the ExoMars-2020 mission had taken place at the company's assembly hall. The commission overseeing the project also discussed the quality of assembly, the installation of scientific instruments, the laying of the pipelines with safe clearances and the next steps in mocking up the cable network of the vehicle.

The test program envisioned four additional phases, which were aimed to check design decisions, ensure manufacturing feasibility of the vehicle and the interface of its components, instruments and other elements, NPO Lavochkin's publication said.

Heads of agencies discuss ExoMars, plan for May 2018 defence of the project

On December 15, the Roskosmos State Corporation and the European Space Agency, ESA, held a summit at the European space center center, ESTEC, in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. The delegations, led by Director General of Roskosmos Igor Komarov and Director General of ESA Johann-Dietrich Wörner, discussed the latest status and prospects for cooperation on ExoMars, the lunar exploration, the International Space Station and the Deep-Space Gateway, Roskosmos said.

According to Roskosmos, the joint Russian-European team reported on the results of the Critical Design Review, S-CDR, on the ExoMars-2020 project and discussed open issues in the project that would have to be addressed immediately and in the future. The officials also worked on a joint roadmap to ensure the successful defense of the ExoMars project by May 2018.

The Russian and European space officials also noted that they had been completing a draft of a cooperation agreement on the exploration of the Moon, including the development of the European work schedule to support the Russian lunar program and the determination of the list and content of technical documents, Roskosmos announced.

(To be continued)


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Page author: Anatoly Zak; Last update: January 3, 2018

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: January 2, 2018

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