Mars Express leaps approval hurdle
6 December 1999The technical design for Mars Express took an important step towards approval last month. A team of 15 space engineers from ESTEC, who are not involved in the project, gave the design the thumbs up after spending a week scrutinising it at the prime contractor's, Matra Marconi Space (MMS), Toulouse. "The team went to Matra to turn the design upside down and find weak points. They didn't find any show stoppers," says Rudi Schmidt, Mars Express Project Manager.
The co-location, as the week of scrutiny is known, is part of a process called a Preliminary Design Review (PDR) which culminates in formal approval being given by ESA senior management for the spacecraft design. Once this approval has been granted, the design phase (phase B) ends and construction (phaseC/D) begins. Last month's co-location followed an intense period of reviews lasting several weeks by the Mars Express project team from ESTEC and the MMS team.
The report of the co-location meeting says that "the Project and Matra have taken excellent care to address all the issues raised and the PDR is considered achieved." The co-location report will go before ESA's senior management in early January, who are now expected to give the design final approval.