ExoMars mission launch postponed two years until 2022
Europe’s ExoMars mission has undergone a setback and will not launch until 2022. The joint ESA/Roscomos Space Corporation mission to send a rover to Mars to search evidence of life has been postponed from its 2020 launch date because of the need for more component testing and the disturbance caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to ESA, the decision for the most recent delay was reached after discussions between the ESA and Roscosmos heads Dmitry Rogozin and Jan Wörner. Working from accounts by the project team, they decided that more testing is required for both the spacecraft and its software. They also acknowledged that the worsening of the present pandemic in European countries will negatively affect launch preparations, specifically in terms of travel. Although the Kazachok landing platform and the Rosalind Franklin rover have been gathered and tested, the descent module is even now undergoing evaluation.
Today’s statement is not the first postponement for ExoMars. The landing mission was initially scheduled for launch in 2018, but delays in gathering the spacecraft and delivery of the science payload needed a rescheduling to 2020. The new takeoff date is between August and October 2022, with the two-year delay because of the 10-day launch windows being reliant on Earth and Mars being in the right orbital positions.
“We have made a hard but well-weighted decision to shelve the launch to 2022,” says Rogozin. “It is driven mainly by the need to maximize the toughness of all ExoMars systems as well as force majeure circumstances associated to exacerbation of the epidemiological situation in Europe which left our experts almost no possibility to carry on with travels to partner industries. I am sure that the steps that our European colleagues and we are taking to make sure mission success will be validated and will unquestionably bring exclsively positive results for the mission implementation.”