Encyclopedia Astronautica
Mars Express

Mars Express
Credit: ESA
Mars Express
View of Mar polar regions from Mars Express
Credit: ESA
European Mars orbiter. One launch, 2003.06.02. The European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter, designed to be built more quickly than any other comparable planetary mission, was a resounding success.

The Beagle 2 Mars lander was released from Mars Express on approach to the Red Planet, but did not return any data.

Prime contractor was Astrium, Toulouse, France, leading a consortium of 24 companies from 15 European countries and the United States. The Beagle lander was developed by the University of Leicester, UK. Launch mass of 1120 kg consisted of the 113 kg orbiter and 60 kg lander.

The Orbiter's instruments included:

  • High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), designed to image the entire surface of Mars at high resolution (10 meters/pixel) and selected areas at super resolution (2 meters/pixel)
  • Energetic Neutral Atoms Analyzer (ASPERA), which ASPERA measured ions, electrons and energetic neutral atoms in the outer atmosphere, to reveal the numbers of oxygen and hydrogen atoms (the constituents of water) interacting with the solar wind and the regions of such interaction.
  • Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS), designed to determine the composition of the Martian atmosphere from the wavelengths of sunlight (in the range 1.2-45 microns) absorbed by molecules in the atmosphere and from the infrared radiation they emit. It measured the vertical pressure and temperature profile of carbon dioxide which made up 95% of the Martian atmosphere, and looked for minor constituents including water, carbon monoxide, methane and formaldehyde.
  • Visible and Infra Red Mineralogical Mapping Spectrometer (OMEGA), designed to produce a map of the mineral composition of the surface at 100 meter resolution. It measured the visible and infrared light reflected from the planet's surface in the wavelength range 0.5-5.2 microns.
  • Sub-Surface Sounding Radar Altimeter (MARSIS), designed to map the sub-surface structure to a depth of a few kilometers. The instrument's 40-metre long antenna sent low frequency radio waves towards the planet, which reflected from any surface they encounter.
  • Mars Radio Science Experiment (MaRS), which used the radio signals that convey data and instructions between the spacecraft and Earth to probe the planet's ionosphere, atmosphere, surface and interior.
  • Ultraviolet and Infrared Atmospheric Spectrometer (SPICAM), designed to determine the composition of the atmosphere from the wavelengths of light absorbed by the constituent gases. The ultraviolet (UV) sensor measured ozone, which absorbed 250-nanometre light, and the infrared (IR) sensor measured water vapor, which absorbed 1.38 micron light.

Spacecraft operations were conducted from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), Darmstadt, Germany, via the ESA ground station in New Norcia, near Perth, Australia. The spacecraft was designed for two Martian years of operation (3.7 earth years).

The Beagle 2 lander was planned to:

  • determine the geology and the mineral and chemical composition of the landing site
  • search for life signatures (exobiology)
  • study the weather and climate

First Launch: 2003.06.02.
Number: 1 .

More... - Chronology...

Associated Countries
See also
  • Soyuz The Russian Soyuz spacecraft has been the longest-lived, most adaptable, and most successful manned spacecraft design. In production for fifty years, more than 240 have been built and flown on a wide range of missions. The design will remain in use with the international space station well into the 21st century, providing the only manned access to the station after the retirement of the shuttle in 2011. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Soyuz Russian orbital launch vehicle. The world's first ICBM became the most often used and most reliable launch vehicle in history. The original core+four strap-on booster missile had a small third stage added to produce the Vostok launch vehicle, with a payload of 5 metric tons. Addition of a larger third stage produced the Voskhod/Soyuz vehicle, with a payload over 6 metric tons. Using this with a fourth stage, the resulting Molniya booster placed communications satellites and early lunar and planetary probes in higher energy trajectories. By the year 2000 over 1,628 had been launched with an unmatched success rate of 97.5% for production models. Improved models providing commercial launch services for international customers entered service in the new millenium, and a new launch pad at Kourou was to be inaugurated in 2009. It appeared that the R-7 could easily still be in service 70 years after its first launch. More...
  • Soyuz FG Uprated Soyuz booster designed for high performance Russian government missions and delivery of Soyuz and Progress spacecraft to the International Space Station. Upgraded engines, modern avionics, reduced non-Russian content. Unknown differences to Soyuz ST. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • ESA European agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. European Space Agency, Europe. More...

  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Home Page (launch records), Harvard University, 1997-present. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, Mars Express: The Scientific Payload, Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, Mars Express Mission Concept, Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, ESA's Mars Express Mission-Europe on Its Way to Mars, Web Address when accessed: here.

Associated Launch Sites
  • Baikonur Russia's largest cosmodrome, the only one used for manned launches and with facilities for the larger Proton, N1, and Energia launch vehicles. The spaceport ended up on foreign soil after the break-up of Soviet Union. The official designations NIIP-5 and GIK-5 are used in official Soviet histories. It was also universally referred to as Tyuratam by both Soviet military staff and engineers, and the US intelligence agencies. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union the Russian Federation has insisted on continued use of the old Soviet 'public' name of Baikonur. In its Kazakh (Kazak) version this is rendered Baykonur. More...

Mars Express Chronology

2003 June 2 - . Launch Site: Baikonur. Launch Complex: Baikonur LC31. LV Family: R-7. Launch Vehicle: Soyuz FG. LV Configuration: Soyuz-FG/Fregat E15000-005/ST11.
  • Mars Express (F-1) / Mars Orbiter / Beagle 2 - . Mass: 1,120 kg (2,460 lb). Nation: Europe. Agency: ESA. Manufacturer: Friedrichshafen. Class: Mars. Type: Mars probe. Spacecraft: Mars Express. USAF Sat Cat: 27816 . COSPAR: 2003-022A. Apogee: 177 km (109 mi). Perigee: 177 km (109 mi). Inclination: 51.8000 deg. Period: 88.00 min. Europe's first probe to Mars. Mars Express had a mass of 637 kg dry, including science payload and Beagle separation device, together with 480 kg of propellant and the 69 kg Beagle 2 lander, for a total of 1186 kg. In addition to this a 37 kg adapter remained attached to the Fregat upper stage. Mars Express was placed into a 1.014 x 1.531 AU x 0.2 deg orbit around the Sun, following a course correction on June 5. The launch was first moved forward from June 1 and May 31 to May 23. Then delayed to June 6, then moved forward to June 2.

2003 December 19 - .
  • Beagle 2 Separation From Mars Express, Successful - . Nation: UK. Spacecraft: Mars Express.

2003 December 25 - .
  • Mars Express, Mars Orbit Insertion, Successful - . Nation: Europe. Spacecraft: Mars Express.

2003 December 25 - .
2004 January 28 - .
2005 May 10 - .
  • Mars Express, Deployment of MARSIS Instrument, first Boom, Successful - . Nation: Europe. Spacecraft: Mars Express.

2005 June 13 - .
  • Mars Express, second Deployment of MARSIS Instrument, Successful - . Nation: Europe. Spacecraft: Mars Express.

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