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].
â€œJohannes Keplerâ€, the second unmanned European cargo spacecraft for the International Space Station (ISS), is currently undergoing its first flightworthiness and functionality tests as a fully integrated unit at the Astrium facility in Bremen. Preparations for the final system tests are running at full capacity.
ESA is spending about $30.4 million on a study of re-entry technology that could be used to return cargo from the International Space Station, according to an Astrium press release. The project is an evolution of the space agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle, a robotic freighter that is currently burned up in the atmosphere after its ISS flight.
At the end of a flawless six-month mission, Jules Verne, Europeâ€™s first Automated Transfer Vehicle, undocked from the International Space Station today at 23:29 hours CEST. The ATV has now embarked on the last leg of its journey in space, which will end with a controlled destructive re-entry into the Earthâ€™s atmosphere on 29 September.
“It is designed to replace the Soyuz vehicle currently in use by Russia and will allow Europe to participate directly in crew transportation. The reusable ship was conceived to carry four people towards the Moon, rivalling the US Ares/Orion system….
“‘If ESA and the Russian Space Agency reach agreement, Europe will supply the service module of that co-operative spacecraft,’ [Anatoly] Zak told BBC News.
“This service module will use technology – such as the propulsion systems – developed for Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), an unmanned freighter recently sent to re-supply the International Space Station (ISS).”
“A â‚¬300 million ($475 million) three-year Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) Advanced Return Vehicle (ARV) development project, to be proposed to the European Space Agency’s November ministerial meeting, could become a stepping stone to a human transport system in 2020.
“ESA wants to evolve its expendable 20,000kg (44,000lb) ATV, which docked with the International Space Station for the first time in April, into an EADS Astrium Ariane 5-launched ARV. That cargo vehicle would be the basis for the manned system operating around 2020. ESA will design ARV with a view to man-rating it in future. The cargo version will be about 5,000kg lighter than the Ariane 5’s low-Earth orbit capability to allow for the future addition of a launch abort tower.”
The European Space Agency has posted an animation of the flight of it Automated Transfer Vehicle Jules Verne. The video shows the launch, docking, and de-orbiting of the robotic cargo spacecraft, which is set for launch to International Space Station on March 9. The ATV can deliver 7.2 metric tons of cargo and supplies to ISS.