Airbus to Bring First Mars Samples to Earth: ESA Contract Award

ERO will reach Mars orbit, capture orbiting samples launched from the Red Planet and bring them back to Earth. (Credit: Airbus)
  • A new decade of European exploration – to the Moon and Mars
  • Airbus to design and build the Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) for Mars Sample Return (MSR) campaign
  • ERO will reach Mars orbit, capture orbiting samples launched from the Red Planet and bring them back to Earth

TOULOUSE, 14 October 2020 (Airbus PR) – Airbus has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) as prime contractor for the Mars Sample Return’s Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) – the first ever spacecraft to bring samples back to Earth from Mars. Mars Sample Return (MSR) is a joint ESA-NASA campaign and the next step in the exploration of Mars. ERO and the Sample Fetch Rover (SFR) are the two main European elements of MSR, both are set to be designed and built by Airbus.

A manipulating arm, referred to as the Sample Transfer Arm (STA), that will transfer the samples from the SFR to the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), is the third European contribution to the MSR program. The value of the ERO contract is €491 million [$574.8 million].

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Lockheed Martin Proposes New ISS Cargo & Servicing System

Lockheed Martin space tug.
Lockheed Martin cargo vessel and space tug.

DENVER, March 13, 2015 (Lockheed Martin PR) – The technologies behind Lockheed Martin’s [NYSE:LMT] proposal for NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) program contain three major elements: a reusable space servicing vehicle called Jupiter™; a large, versatile cargo container named the Exoliner™; and a robotic arm. Unveiled March 12 in Washington, the company’s approach to the CRS-2 program offers NASA extensive cargo capacity and the opportunity to host commercial payloads, and builds a foundation for future deep space exploration systems.

CRS-2 is a NASA program to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) with food, equipment and other critical supplies.

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ESA’s ATV Program Ends With Fiery Reentry; Focus Shifts to Orion

ATV-5 departs the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
ATV-5 departs the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s fifth automated cargo ferry completed its mission to the International Space Station today when it reentered the atmosphere and burned up safely over an uninhabited area of the southern Pacific Ocean.

The end of the mission as the craft broke up as planned at about 18:04 GMT (19:04 CET) marks the end of the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) programme. The programme has served the Station with the most complex space vehicle ever developed in Europe, achieving five launches in six years following its 2008 debut.

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ESA’s ATV to End Final Space Station Resupply Mission

ATV-5 (Credit: ESA/NASA)
ATV-5 (Credit: ESA/NASA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s last Automated Transfer Vehicle will leave the International Space Station on Saturday for its final solo voyage, setting course for a fiery demise that will mark the end of its mission and the programme.

The last of five Automated Transfer Vehicles, Georges Lemaître has had an event-filled mission that has displayed the spacecraft’s versatility. ATV-5 was launched only nine months after predecessor Albert Einstein finished its mission to supply and reboost the orbital complex.

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Camera to Record ATV’s Fiery Re-entry From the Inside

ATV-5 firing its thrusters on Station approach in 2014. (Credit: Roscosmos-O. Artemyev)
ATV-5 firing its thrusters on Station approach in 2014. (Credit: Roscosmos-O. Artemyev)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Next Monday, ESA astronaut Samantha Christoforetti will float into Europe’s space ferry to install a special infrared camera, set to capture unique interior views of the spacecraft’s break-up on reentry.

“The battery-powered camera will be trained on the Automated Transfer Vehicle’s forward hatch, and will record the shifting temperatures of the scene before it,” explains Neil Murray, overseeing the project for ESA.

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ASAP Says SpaceX, Orbital Need to Up Their Games on ISS Resupply

SpaceX Dragon freighter at ISS. (Credit: NASA)
SpaceX Dragon freighter at ISS. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation will now have to deliver the majority of supplies needed to maintain the U.S. segment of the International Space Station (ISS) given ESA’s decision to retire its ATV freighter and JAXA limiting HTV cargo ship flights to one per year, NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) said in a report this week.

The increased responsibilities come amid a 16-month gap in Orbital Science’s Cygnus flights to the space station that resulted from the explosion of the company’s Antares rocket on Oct. 28. The loss puts much more pressure on SpaceX, which has an aggressive schedule of five Dragon resupply flights to the space station this year.

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NASA, Partners Work to Avoid Water Shortage on ISS

A massive explosion occurred right after the Antares rocket hit the ground.
A massive explosion occurred right after the Antares rocket hit the ground.

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Following the loss of a Cygnus freighter when its Antares booster exploded after launch on Oct. 28, NASA officials emphasized the International Space Station (ISS) crew was in good shape on supplies, which could last into March without any other ships visiting the facility. As if on queue, a Russian Progress freighter blasted off for the station the following morning, which officials said demonstrated the wisdom of redundant supply systems.

All that was true enough. Behind the scenes, however, officials were concerned over one critical item aboard station: water. The suspension of Cygnus flights for at least a year threw a monkey wrench into NASA’s plan to use the cargo ship to resupply the station with H2O. It also left station astronauts dependent upon the success of a Japanese HTV freight set for launch only weeks before they would ran out of water on Sept. 2.

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Worldwide Launches Hit 20-Year High in 2014

Orion Exploration Flight Test launch. (Credit: NASA)
Orion Exploration Flight Test launch. (Credit: NASA)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a banner year for launches worldwide in 2014, with the total reaching a 20-year high as Russia and India debuted new launch vehicles, NASA tested its Orion crew spacecraft, China sent a capsule around the moon, and Japan launched a spacecraft to land on an asteroid.

There were a total of 92 orbital launches, the highest number since the 93 launches conducted in 1994. In addition, Russia and India conducted successful suborbital tests of new boosters.

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Preview of the ESA Ministerial Meeting

ESA ministerial meeting in Naples. (Credit: ESA)
ESA ministerial meeting in Naples. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS, 27 November 2014 (ESA PR) The next Council at Ministerial Level (C/M 14) for the European Space Agency (ESA) takes place in Luxembourg on 2 December. The main topics for decision are reflected in three Resolutions:

  • the Resolution on Europe’s access to space, which recognises the strategic and socio-economic value for Europe to maintain an independent, reliable and affordable access to space for institutional and commercial European customers and underlines the new governance principles related to the exploitation of Europe’s next launcher, Ariane 6, and of the evolution of Vega, Vega-C;
  • the Resolution on Europe’s space exploration strategy, addressing ESA’s three destinations (low-Earth orbit (LEO), Moon and Mars) and, for the LEO destination, in particular the International Space Station (ISS) Programme; and, finally,
  • the Resolution on ESA evolution.

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ATV Ready for its Re-entry Close-up

Artist’s view of ATV-5’s destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. (Credit: ESA–D. Ducros, 2014)
Artist’s view of ATV-5’s destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. (Credit: ESA–D. Ducros, 2014)

PARIS (ESA PR) — As ESA’s remaining supply ferry to the International Space Station burns up in the atmosphere, its final moments as its hull disintegrates will be recorded from the inside by a unique infrared camera.

An ESA-led team designed and developed the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) Break-Up Camera in just nine months in order to make it on board in time.

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Hauling the Mail: A History of Space Freighters

Europe's ATV cargo ship. (Credit: NASA)
Europe’s ATV cargo ship. (Credit: NASA)

For more than 50 years now, the space program has been all about the astronauts. Or, as Jan Brady might say, “It’s always astros astros astros!” Returning space adventurers  have gotten it all: the ticker tape parades, the medals of freedom, the hottest groupies. What a life.

By contrast, cargo ships don’t get squat. Few people notice them when they are launched, and even fewer pay any note when most of them are filled with trash and cast off to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. Thanks for the food, water and underwear. Now, go burn yourself up. Where’s the glory in that?

Joey Vars, an intern this Fall at NASA, has written a brief history that casts a bit of well deserved light on these under appreciated vessels. The article is followed by a table comparing all the cargo vehicles now serving the International Space Station.

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NASA TV Coverage Set Cygnus and ATV Departures, Soyuz Launch Preparations

Cygnus berthed at ISS. (Credit: NASA)
Cygnus berthed at ISS. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA Television will provide live coverage of the departure of the newest U.S. commercial cargo spacecraft to deliver supplies to the International Space Station and undocking of the fourth European Space Agency cargo vehicle.

Coverage for departure of the Cygnus spacecraft begins at 7 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Oct. 22. The spacecraft has been attached to the space station since Sept. 29 on a demonstration cargo resupply mission by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va.

Coverage for departure of the fourth European Space Agency (ESA) Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-4) cargo spacecraft begins at 4:45 a.m.  Monday, Oct. 28.

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Group Recommends ESA Develop Orion Propulsion System


Space News
reports that European space officials are leaning toward supporting a plan that would have ESA supply the propulsion module for NASA’s Orion deep-space vehicle:

A French-German working group established to coordinate the policies of Europe’s two biggest space program backers has concluded that the European Space Agency (ESA) should provide a propulsion module for NASA’s Orion crew-transport capsule to pay ESA’s space station operating costs between 2017 and 2020, government and industry officials said….

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ESA Awards Astrium Study Contracts for Evolving ATV, Columbus Lab

Summary

  • Astrium to study how ATV and Columbus know-how and technologies could be used in a variety of future missions
  • Further developments to be decided at the next meeting of the ESA Ministerial Council in November 2012
  • Two studies with an envisaged value of €13 million [$16.5 million] in total — €6.5 million [$8.25 million] each

21 June 2012 (Astrium PR) — Astrium, Europe’s number-one space company, has been awarded two studies by the European Space Agency (ESA) to define how to evolve technologies used on the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) and the Columbus space laboratory for future space vehicles. The envisaged value of both studies is €13 million [$16.5 million] — €6.5 million [$8.25 million] per study.

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ASI, JAXA Discuss Cooperation on Re-entry Vehicle Tech

IXV rendering (courtesy of CNES)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

With both Europe and Japan taking steps toward independent human access to space, officials from JAXA and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) are meeting today to discuss collaboration on an orbital vehicle that would be able to re-enter the atmosphere and be recovered safely.

The goal of the workshop is to gather innovative ideas for a preliminary study of a future atmospheric re-entry demonstrator to be launched aboard Europe’s Vega rocket, according to an ASI press release.

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