18-20 October 2022
Europe/Amsterdam timezone

Mars Sample Return: Thermal Design of the Earth Return Orbiter

18 Oct 2022, 17:30


thermal design (for platforms, instruments etc.) Thermal Design


Alejo Ares (Airbus Defence and Space SAS) Mr Vito Laneve (ESA)


The physical return of samples from Mars has been a top priority of the international planetary science community for over a decade. A wide consensus is held on the fact that a mission which enables the analysis on Earth of samples returned from well-characterized sites on Mars would allow the greatest return for key scientific objectives, such as understanding the evolution of Mars climate and geology, searching for evidence of extinct and extant life and past habitability, and preparing for eventual human exploration. NASA and ESA are currently collaborating to coordinate a joint Mars Sample Return (MSR) campaign, capable of delivering a variety of soil samples collected on Mars for analysis on Earth. This international campaign should comprise three missions. NASA Mars 2020 rover (Perseverance) is already on the Mars soil performing the initial sampling and caching samples. The following three proposed missions entail the following elements: a fetch rover that will collect the samples left by Perseverance, a landing platform with a rocket to launch the samples into Mars orbit, a dedicated spacecraft (named Earth Return Orbiter) capable of capturing the orbital sample and returning it to Earth.
The Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) mission is characterized by a payload composed of two elements: a sample handling payload to perform the capture and bio-sealing of the Orbiting Sample (OS), and the Earth Entry System (EES). Following a transfer to Mars, the ERO spacecraft will be captured into Mars orbit and spiral down to reach a low Mars orbit in time to support the data relay of the lander entry, descent and landing as well as the following surface mission. Once the OS is ready to be launched into Mars orbit, ERO will adjust its orbit in order to provide coverage of the ascent vehicle launch. The ERO will then detect, rendezvous with, and capture the OS, before transferring it safely to the EES. On the return to the Earth, ERO will release the EES on an entry trajectory before performing an Earth avoidance manoeuvre itself. After touchdown on Earth, the samples are transferred safely to a dedicated sample receiving and curation facility.
This presentation deals with the thermal design of the Earth Return Orbiter (ERO), with a focus on the European modules, describing the design challenges, current status and future activities planned in the development of the Thermal Control Subsystem (TCS) of the spacecraft.

Primary authors

Alejo Ares (Airbus Defence and Space SAS) Mr Vito Laneve (ESA) Jérôme Luzurier (Airbus Defence and Space SAS)

Presentation Materials