Mars Express spacecraft testing begins
30 August 2001The structural model of the Mars Express spacecraft arrived at Intespace, Toulouse on 29 August to begin its first system level test campaign. During this six-week campaign, the spacecraft will be subjected to mechanical qualification tests to ensure the integrity of the structure during launch.
The structural model consists of the flight structure, flight propulsion system and mass models of most of the equipment units. The mass models, which are typically of similar form to the flight units, represent the mass of each unit bolted onto its assigned panel. Exceptions include the high gain antenna which is an engineering model and will eventually become the spacecraft flight spare unit. In this case, the materials used and the form are exactly as for flight.
Other exceptions include the solar array units and the Beagle-2 lander, both of which are appendages with significant mass. The dummies for these units model not only the bolt down interface and mass, but also each unit's flexibility, thus allowing their response to vibration during launch to be assessed.
To provide a realistic launch scenario, the spacecraft's fuel tanks will be filled with simulated fuel and oxidiser during the tests. When the tests are completed, the spacecraft will return to Alenia Spazio in Turin to begin the final flight integration of equipment and experiments in November.