The ExoMars programme is the result of cooperation between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos), strongly supported by the Italian Space Agency (ASI). The programme is developed by a European consortium led by Thales Alenia Space Italia and involving almost 134 space companies from ESA State members. Leonardo participates in the ExoMars mission also through Telespazio and the Airborne & Space Systems Division.
ExoMars is the first mission in ESA's Aurora exploration program, comprising two separate missions:
the first mission, since 2016, has been studying Mars' atmosphere in order to demonstrate the feasibility of several critical technologies for atmospheric entry, descent and landing on Mars.
the second mission in this program, in 2020, will include an autonomous rover, capable of taking soil samples down to a depth of two meters, and analysing their chemical, physical and biological properties.
The main scientific objectives of the ExoMars mission are the search for traces of life on Mars, past and present, the geochemical characterization of the planet, knowledge of the environment and its geophysical aspects, and the identification of possible risks to future human missions.
Telespazio is responsible for the development of some key systems for the ground segment of the mission, including the Mission Control System, used to monitor and control the Trace Gas Orbiter in 2016, and the operating simulator that supports the testing of the ExoMars ground infrastructure, including the mission and flight control systems. The activities are carried out in Darmstadt, Germany, by the Telespazio subsidiary VEGA Deutschland. The Telespazio staff operates in the ESOC teams to conduct pre-launch activities, for the LEOP, and the ordinary mission activities.
For the 2020 mission, Telespazio is responsible for the design, development and maintenance of the ROCC Ground Communication Infrastructure (RGCI), the infrastructure that provides the Rover's operating centre with the control communication necessary to conduct the Rover's operations, especially sending commands and receiving the telemetry data. The activities will take place in Rome, before moving to Turin and Darmstadt.