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ExoMars 2016



The ExoMars 2016 mission comprises two spacecraft, an orbiter and a lander, launched together in March 2016. The Trace Gas Orbiter will detect and monitor trace gases in the martian atmosphere from an approximately 400 km orbit. The lander, Schiaparelli, is an entry, descent, and landing demonstrator module designed to test out technologies necessary for future lander missions. It carries a small science payload designed to make atmospheric measurements. ExoMars is a European Space Agency program undertaken in conjunction with Roscosmos.

Trace Gas Orbiter

The Trace Gas Orbiter contains a 112 kg science payload to characterize and study the behavior of trace gases on Mars. The three primary objectives of the orbiter are to conduct investigations into the biological or geological origin of trace gases on Mars with a scientific payload of 4 instruments; deliver Schiaparelli and support part of the data transmission during its descent and surface operations; and serve as a data relay to support communications for the ExoMars 2018 rover and the surface science platform. Its trace gas investigations will include monitoring seasonal changes in atmospheric composition and temperature, and mapping subsurface hydrogen.

The full spacecraft has a launch mass of 4332 kg, which includes the 600 kg Schiaparelli lander and propellant. The Trace Gas Orbiter is box-shaped, 3.2 meters x 2 meters x 2 meters with two solar panel wings spanning 17.5 meters tip-to-tip. These provide approximately 2000 W of power to the spacecraft and to two lithium-ion batteries with 5100 Wh total capacity. Propulsion is provided by a bipropellant system with a 424 N main engine. Communication is through a 65 W X-band system, a 2.2 meter high-gain dish antenna, and 3 low gain antennas. Communication with the surface lander and possible later surface missions will be through Electra UHF band transceivers and a helix antenna.

The science payload includes the Atmospheric Chemistry Suite (ACS), Color and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS), Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector (FREND), and Nadir and Occultation for Mars Discovery (NOMAD).

Schiaparelli lander

Schiaparelli is primarily a technology demonstration vehicle. Technologies being tested include special thermal protection material, the parachute system, a radar Doppler altimeter, and a liquid-propulsion braking system. Monitors throughout the spacecraft will transmit data on the performance of the various systems. Schiaparelli is disc-shaped, with a diameter of 1.65 meters, protected on entry by a 2.4 meter diameter heat shield. Total mass is 600 kg. Descent deceleration is provided by the heat shield, a 12 m diameter disk-gap-band parachute, and three clusters of three 400-N hydrazine engines. Power is provided by primary batteries only, expected to provide power for 2 to 8 days of surface operations. Communications with orbiting spacecraft are via UHF. Schiaparelli is designed to land on terrain with rocks as high as 40 cm and slopes up to 12.5 degrees. The science and technology payload comprises the Dust Characterization, Risk Assessment, and Environmental Analyser on the Martian Surface (DREAMS); the Atmospheric Mars Entry and Landing Investigation and Analysis (AMELIA); the Descent Camera (DECA); the Combined Aerothermal Sensor Package (COMARS+); and an array of laser retroreflectors.

Mission Profile

ExoMars 2016 launched at 09:31 UT on 14 March 2016 on a Proton rocket with a Breeze M upper stage from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. After a 7 month cruise, the spacecraft will arrive at Mars in October 2016. Three days prior to reaching Mars, on 16 October, the Schiaparelli lander was released as planned at 14:42 UT. It entered the martian atmosphere on 19 October at 14:42 UT, 122.5 km altitude at approximately 21,000 km/hr, and initially decelerated using the aeroshell heatshield. At an altitude of about 11 km and a velocity of 1650 km/hr the parachute was deployed. The front heat shield was released and the radar altimeter deployed at about 7 km altitude. An anomaly in the navigation system resulted in premature release of the rear heatshield and parachute and firing of the landing thrusters, causing the spacecraft to free fall the final 3.7 km, which it could not survive.

After releasing Schiaparelli the Trace Gas Orbiter maneuvered to put itself into a 4-day, 98000 × 200 km elliptical orbit around Mars. In March 2017 it started using aerobraking orbits, dipping into the upper martian atmosphere. It completed the effort on 20 February 2018 with a thruster firing to bring it into a 1050 x 200 km orbit. It then maneuvered over the next two months to bring it into its circular, roughly 2-hour, 400-km altitude science orbit. It deployed its science payload and will make measurements as its primary function for two years. It will also act as a relay for the ExoMars 2020 mission. The nominal end of the Trace Gas Orbiter mission is in 2022.

Alternate Names

  • 41388
  • Schiaparelli
  • TGO
  • Trace Gas Orbiter
  • urn:esa:psa:context:instrument_host:spacecraft.tgo

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 2016-03-14
Launch Vehicle: Proton-M
Launch Site: Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome), Kazakhstan
Nominal Power: 2000 W

Funding Agency

  • European Space Agency (International)


  • Planetary Science

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Mr. Donald McCoyProgram ManagerEuropean Space
Dr. Hakan SvedhemProject ScientistEuropean Space
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