March: Airbus still at the forefront of the space scene

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Airbus is an even more important part of history for space missions to Mars. Indeed, with the Earth Return Orbitor (ERO) mission, the company contributes directly to great research and advances in the discovery of the Red Planet. With its expertise and innovations, Airbus is being followed by ESA and NASA in the development of a new technology that will hit Mars in 2026. She will follow Perseverance “Percy” in her missions, to collect valuable information on Earth.

Mars, a planet that turns the heads of space actors

For years now, NASA and ESA have had in mind the desire to carry out missions on Mars. A wish made possible with the successful takeoff and arrival of Perseverance on the Red Planet. Already firmly integrated into the programmes of these various missions, Airbus continues to play a central role in future space objectives. Short-term goals, since NASA is working on an upcoming mission, in less than 5 years.

The mission aims to bring back samples from Mars on an uninhabited space trip, but with state-of-the-art technology on board. A technology designed by Airbus! The first observations remain very positive, after the preliminary design review of NASA and ESA,validated.

Validation also for all the technical specifications and the main characteristics of the whole. A titanic task then begins, with the collaboration of eight European countries in this major mission.

Thus, all tests are aimed at ensuring the smooth running of the mission. This first step comes quickly, in less than a year after the start of the reflection on the part of Airbus. In addition, the delivery of this technology is planned for 2025, i.e. 5 1/2 years after the appointment of the group as prime contractor.

The rollout of the program continues, with this departure for Mars still in mind. A departure that will not be long in coming, after the official delivery of the technology. Airbus is no longer in its first operation in collaboration with NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). Airbus’ ambition is to obtain an important role in the operation of space explorations and missions.

Surface Mars planet space
The red planet catches all the eyes.

A highly anticipated mission with many stakes

The next step for airbus’ mission is expected to take place within two years. This is the critical design review. If this review is validated, the vessel can be produced and assembled to guarantee delivery within the set deadlines.

Thus, in 2026, the launch of the spacecraft will take place, on an Ariane 64 type launcher. A five-year mission to Mars. The launcher will then reach the Red Planet, near Perseverance,already on site. The module will then serve as a communication relay with all surface missions.

Airbus leads the entire mission, and works in cooperation with different companies and countries of the European Union. For example, he is in charge of the development of the spacecraft at its site in Toulouse. The assembly, meanwhile, will take place in Turin, provided by Thales Alenia Space. Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands are also contributing to this unprecedented mission.

Such a short delay in the realization of this vessel is not due to chance. Indeed, Airbus relies on existing and mature technologies rather than starting from a blank sheet of paper. This concerns in particular plasma propulsion, optical navigation or mooring.

In total, the vessel will be important in its proportions. 7 tons, 7 meters high, solar panels on a total area of 144m², the largest ever built on Earth. All for a wingspan of 40 meters.

During its mission to Mars, the spacecraft will recover the orbital sample, an object the size of a basketball present on Mars. He will then bring it back to Earth, where it will be analyzed. An important mission, for the progress in space research, at a time when the eyes are already turned towards the red planet…


The first step towards Mars of the Earth Return Orbiter. Airbus press release of 15 June 2021

Earth Return Orbiter – Space exploration airbus

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