Specifically, a complete composite of the ExoMars 2022 mission has been undergoing a dynamic balancing test in an anechoic chamber at Thales Alenia Space’s facilities in Cannes.
The test ensures the spacecraft will be perfectly balanced when spinning out in space. ESA writes:
“During the cruise to Mars the complete ‘spacecraft composite’ (comprising all four units) will be spinning at about 2.75 revolutions per minute, in order to stabilise itself on its trajectory. The dynamic balancing test checks that there are no imbalances that could induce wobbles in space that would require too much fuel to compensate. It is also important that the spacecraft is balanced so that it spins smoothly around its rotation axis, to keep its antenna pointed to Earth, so that a communication link is possible.”
In the test, the spacecraft composite was subjected to a spin up to 30 rpm, corresponding to a centrifugal acceleration of 2g at the outer edge of the heatshield.
You can see this in the video below. The spacecraft comprises the carrier module (the eight-sided structure), the descent module (the white module in the centre) and the Rosalind Franklin rover and Kazachok surface platform, which are encapsulated inside the descent module.
Upon completion of the environmental testing at Cannes, the spacecraft will return to Thales Alenia Space’s facilities in Turin, Italy, mid-March, for further functional testing.
Rosalind Franklin’s rover twin on Earth has executed trial science activities for the first time, including drill sample collection and close-up imaging, adds ESA.
A new parachute strategy has also been adopted ahead of the next series of high altitude drop tests, it said.
The ExoMars programme actually comprises two missions.
The first, the Trace Gas Orbiter, was launched in 2016. The second, detailed above, comprises a rover and surface platform, and is planned for 2022. Together they are intended to address the question of whether there has ever been life on Mars.
You can read more about the ExoMars mission on the ESA website.
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