Proton M successfully sets ExoMars orbiter and lander on their way to red planet and reports that Breeze M blew up afterwards appear to be incorrect (Updated)

by | Mar 15, 2016 | ESA, exploration, Russia, Satellites, Science, Seradata News | 0 comments

The joint ESA/Roscosmos ExoMars mission to examine the amount and source of methane on Mars has been successfully delivered onto its interplanetary trajectory by a Proton M/Breeze M launch. The launch took place at 0931 GMT on 14 February and carried the main ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, which will take scientific readings while in orbit around the red planet. Aboard was the Schiaparelli landing craft, designed to land on the surface of the Mars after the main spacecraft arrives in October 2016. The 600kg lander will operate on battery power alone for four sols, which are roughly equivalent in time to Earth days.

The mission was rescued by Russia’s Proton launch vehicle after NASA refused to pay for its previously agreed Atlas V launch due to financial cuts. A follow up ExoMars rover mission is planned for 2018, although for technical and financial reasons this may be delayed until 2020.

Update 23 March 2016: While the main part of the launch went satisfactorily, not everything went to plan. After the successful injection, the Breeze M made a 12-second separation burn and was supposed to then have a second burn to depletion/graveyard with all pressurisation gases then released. However, the Breeze M is thought to have exploded during this second burn as debris was subsequently tracked by telescopes at a Brazilian observatory.

Update 6 April 2016: The head of Roscosmos, Igor Komarov, has stated that the agency has no telemetry information that anything went wrong with the Breeze M upper stage.  http://spacenews.com/roscosmos-gives-detailed-rebuttal-to-reports-of-proton-upper-stage-anomaly-after-exomars-separation/

More tangible evidence that the Breeze M had not exploded is that the Space Command have recent tracks of the tank and engine sections. These appear to be intact and separated as planned.

 

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