Beagle 2 gets new design
9 July 1999A new design for the Mars Express lander, Beagle 2, was revealed to the public last month at the Le Bourget airshow in Paris and at the Royal Society and Tomorrow's World exhibitions in London. The pyramid of the previous model is out: something resembling a clam shell or a large pill box is in.
The new shape emerged after a rethink amongst the Beagle team over how to keep the lander's mass as low as possible, maximise the space available for instruments and keep the engineering simple. "We wanted as simple a design as possible to make sure it works," says Mark Sims, project manager for Beagle 2 at Leicester University.
"A key requirement is for Beagle to turn the right way up after it's landed. A pyramid can land on its top, side or base. But a clam-shell can land only on its top or base. With the clam you just open it and it doesn't matter which way up it is. With a pyramid you have to open the sides in a particular order to right it." The new shape is also more robust to withstand the landing impact, allows 25% more solar panel area and avoids the previous problem of the pyramid casting shadows over the solar panels. It also makes the lander easier to sterilise before it sets off. "For a design that's a basin with a lid, we just have to take off the lid to get at the instruments inside," says Sims.