NASA's Perseverance spacecraft relies on the weather station and communications antenna built by Airbus
When NASA's Perseverance spacecraft lands on the surface of the Red planet on Thursday (tomorrow), Airbus technology will accompany it: The MEDA Meteorology station provides scientists with valuable data on Mars weather, while the High Gain Antenna System is a high-speed will provide a communication link.
Perseverance will use seven scientific tools in total, including the MEDA (Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer) meteorological station designed and built by Airbus to study the biological and geological environment of Mars.
MEDA will measure many environmental parameters using sensors placed along the spacecraft: wind speed and direction, humidity rates, atmospheric pressure, soil and air temperatures, solar radiation, and also the properties of settled dust. These parameters will guide the decisions made to fly the Ingenuity helicopter on the spacecraft.
MEDA is the third Mars peripheral station led by Airbus, which has proven its expertise in this field. The first was produced for the Curiosity spacecraft known as REMS (Rover Environmental Monitoring Station) in 2012 and the second was produced for InSight under the name TWINS in 2018. (Heat and wind for InSight) Both were successful NASA / JPL missions.
All data from Perseverance discoveries will be sent to Earth via the HGAS antenna system designed and built by Airbus, based on an X-band transmitter and receiver antenna that enables high-speed data communication. The antenna is based on microstrip technology developed in-house. Protected against dust to maintain hygienic conditions and thermal stability.
The antenna will directly send scientific data generated by different vehicles and information about the health status of the spacecraft, without the need for interconnections (eg orbits). In addition, the vehicle will receive daily instructions from Earth for its missions. Because the antenna can be steered, it can send a beam of information directly to the Earth without moving the vehicle, which contributes to energy savings.
Extreme thermal discoveries on Mars require extensive thermal endurance tests and qualification of the antenna system at temperatures between -135ºC and + 90ºC. This will be Airbus' second HGAS antenna system on Mars, 8 years after the first antenna system, which currently continues to work flawlessly with Curiosity.
Mars2020 is the most ambitious Mars mission ever, as it will study the rocks and land of Mars in more detail than ever to find evidence of past life on the planet and preserve signs or traces (bio-signatures) of that life to bring to Earth. Similarly, it will characterize the geological processes that make up the surface and measure the diurnal and seasonal evolution of processes occurring in the Martian atmosphere, including the characterization of dust. Perseverance will also test technologies that will help pave the way for future human exploration on Mars, such as generating oxygen from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere or the first flight of a small helicopter on another planet.
Airbus and Mars
Airbus built Europe's first spacecraft to Mars - Mars Express, launched in 2003. Airbus also designed and manufactured the Beagle 2 (transported to Mars by Mars Express) surface vehicle, which was unfortunately lost after launch.
Airbus designed and built the ESA ExoMars, Europe's first spacecraft to another planet. The ExoMars spacecraft was built in a special hygienic bioburden chamber at the Stevenage (UK) facility to comply with planetary protection regulations.
Airbus is working on the next design phase (B2) of the Sample Fetch Rover (SFR) project on behalf of ESA as part of its mission to deliver Mars samples. In 2026, SFR will be launched to Mars and will look for remaining samples from Perseverance. It will collect them and transport them back to the spacecraft and place them in a Mars Ascent vehicle, which will launch them into orbit around Mars.
Airbus is to build the Earth Return Orbiter that will collect samples from Mars orbit and bring them back to Earth. Airbus is the prime contractor for the Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Mars Sample Return mission.