Mars Express launch contract signed at Le Bourget
15 June 1999At the Paris Air Show yesterday the contract for the launch of ESA's Mars Express by the Euro-Russian Starsem was signed by Roger Bonnet, ESA's Director of the Scientific Programme and Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of Starsem. With the signing of this launch contract the major constituents of Europe's first mission to Mars are in place.
"...I'm very happy to sign this contract with Starsem and to have a launcher for Mars Express, the first European mission to the red planet", said Roger Bonnet.
Mars Express will be launched by the Soyuz-Fregat launcher in June 2003 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch window opens on 1 June and lasts until 11 June 2003, maximising use of the favourable positioning of Earth with relation to Mars at that time. When it arrives at the red planet six months later, it will begin to map the planet, to study the crust and to search for water. Seven instruments, provided by space research institutes throughout Europe, will make observations from the main spacecraft as it orbits the planet. Just before the spacecraft arrives, it will release a small lander, Beagle II, that will journey on to the surface to look for signs of life.
This is the second launch contract awarded by ESA to Starsem, the first being for the launch of the four Cluster II satellites, in two pairs by Soyuz-Fregat vehicles, in summer 2000.
The partners in the joint European-Russian Company Starsem, founded in 1996 to perform the launch services of the Soyuz launcher family, are Aerospatiale, Arianespace, the Russian Space Agency (RKA) and the Samara Space Centre.