The UK space industry is highly involved in current and future space exploration missions, including ExoMars, Phobos Sample Return, Lunar Volatile Prospector and Europa Penetrator. Airbus Defence and Space is playing a leading role in a number of these European Space Agency missions, and aims to contribute to the international exploration campaign.
Airbus Defence and Space UK is leading the design and manufacture of the ExoMars Rover Vehicle. This Rover is a highly capable and mobile surface platform that will be delivered to Mars in 2018 or 2020, and carries extensive payloads focussing on exobiology to search for past and present life on Mars. The advanced autonomous navigation system on the Rover allows for fast path planning and effective science operations, and a subsurface sampling device will drill up to 2 m depth to collect and analyse samples.
A Phobos Sample Return mission is currently under investigation by Airbus Defence and Space UK, to launch in 2024-2026. The four module composite would transfer to the Martian system, characterise Phobos in detail with the science payload, and then a Lander element would land safely on the Phobos surface. A robotic arm and sampling mechanism would acquire a 100 g sample of surface regolith and transfer it to an Earth re-entry capsule, which would then return to Earth to enter the atmosphere and land for recovery and analysis.
Several technology development contracts are underway to mature the key Phobos Sample Return technologies, including the Sample Acquisition Means for the Phobos Lander: Experiments and First Realisation (SAMPLER) contract led by Airbus. SAMPLER will breadboard the end-to-end sample handling chain for the Phobos mission, and test it under representative and dynamic microgravity conditions, including air-bearing tables and gravity off-loading. The Phobos Landing Gear System (PLanGS) project, led by SENER with Airbus involvement, will design and breadboard the landing leg system with damping mechanisms, and test it at the touchdown velocities and loads expected in the actual mission.
Other future exploration missions under investigation at Airbus include the Lunar Volatile Prospector, a small rover vehicle that would drive into permanently shadowed craters at the lunar south pole to search for water and volatiles, and the Europa Penetrator that would impact into the surface of Europa at high speeds, and take samples of the ice crust for analysis by in-situ instrumentation.
This presentation will give an update on the current status of the ExoMars Rover, summarise the Airbus Phobos Sample Return mission and spacecraft design, and present the latest results from the SAMPLER, PLanGS, Lunar Volatile Prospector, and Penetrator studies.