The landing craft that will deliver Europe's first rover to the planet Mars has arrived for assembly and testing in Turin, Italy and has been officially named. A key component of the ExoMars 2020 mission, the Roscosmos landing platform has been christened "Kazachok" (Cossack) by the Russian space agency.
Scheduled to launch in July of next year, ExoMars 2020 is the second phase of the joint ESA/Roscosmos mission to the Red Planet. The first was the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) launched in 2016 that is currently in Martian orbit. The second phase will include two vehicles made up of the Kazachok landing platform and the Rosalind Franklin rover.
The 1,800-kg (3,968-lb) Russian-built landing platform system is based on the Schiaparelli EDM lander, which was launched in 2016 along with the TGO and crashed on Mars in October of that year. It will act as the lander and deployment base for the rover, after which it will serve as a stationary monitoring lab to study the Martian climate, atmosphere, and radiation, as well as seeking traces of water at the landing site.
According to ESA, the Kazachok was delivered to Turin aboard an Antonov heavy transport jet after being carefully decontaminated and packed to avoid carrying any terrestrial microbes to its new home on Mars. While at Turin, the Italian branch of Thales Alenia Space will complete final assembly and testing of the platform in cooperation with ESA and the main contractor of the mission descent stage, the Russian Lavochkin Association. It will then be integrated with the other spacecraft modules, including the rover, avionics, and thermal protection systems.
"We have now a very challenging schedule of deliveries and tests both in Italy and France," says François Spoto, ESA's ExoMars team leader. "The coordination between the Russian and European teams is key to timely reach the Baikonur cosmodrome in 2020."
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