[From Emily Lakdawalla’s blog at the Planetary Society]
Preparations for the ExoMars rover mission are in their final stages. ESA made two announcements today: ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is shifting orbit, and they officially opened a new Rover Operations Control Centre (ROCC) in Turin, Italy. ROCC will support the Rosalind Franklin rover’s deployment from the Kazachok lander and surface operations after that. Along with the announcements they posted some cool images. The mission is proceeding toward a July 2020 launch and March 2021 landing.
ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has had a productive science mission so far (finding no methane, which is a puzzle). If the rover lands successfully, the orbiter is going to take on a second job: rover data relay. To prepare for that work, ExoMars TGO will make a subtle change to its orbit on 15 June that will place it on course to be in the right place at the right time to relay the arriving rover’s telemetry to Earth. In the meantime, ExoMars TGO is performing regular tests of rover relay with Curiosity, giving ESA controllers valuable experience, and NASA scientists more data return. NASA provided its Electra relay radio packages to ESA to make all this as seamless as possible… [More at link]