Franco/Italian joint venture Alcatel Alenia Space will analyse orbiter and descent module options under a €13 million ($15.7 million) European Space Agency design contract for the €600 million ExoMars rover mission, to be launched in 2011.

The ExoMars baseline design envisages a rover, which will search for signs of life, but no orbiter. Its data would be sent back via NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter – now on its way to Mars. Alcatel will also study two options for a bigger mission – one “where an orbiter is launched separately to the rover, and a second single launch, with a full orbiter that can also do science”, says Vincenzo Giorgio, the company’s optical observation and science business unit Italian programmes director.

The extra mass of the full orbiter with the rover would require an Arianespace Ariane 5 launch instead of a Starsem Soyuz-Fregat booster.

Source: Flight International