The European Space Agency (ESA) is considering proposals for an entry, descent and landing system (EDLS) technology demonstrator for its ExoMars Rover mission, which could see a successor to the UK's Beagle-2 seek life on Mars.

Subject to approval by the ESA member states in 12 months time, the new proposal would split the ExoMars mission, set for 2009, into two flights. The first would launch the Rover's orbiter along with a lander to test a prototype EDLS. The lander could be a Beagle-type craft. If successful, the second mission would land the Rover, which would have an EDLS based on that of the lander.

"A split launch, first the orbiter then the Rover, is among the proposals made by the industrial consortia," says ESA. "Additionally, studies are ongoing internally at ESA to assess the requirements and the features of a precursor mission aimed at validating [the EDLS]."

EADS Astrium has suggested the lander in the first ExoMars mission could be a Beagle-2 like vehicle. The satellite builder has proposed two improved Beagle landers for the first orbiter flight. One could be launched toward the planet during the journey, while the second could be dropped from orbit to increase the chances of success.

Source: Flight International