Antwerp Space N.V., a subsidiary of OHB SE (Prime Standard, ISIN: DE0005936124), has signed a contract with ESA for supplying the LaRa (Lander Radioscience) instrument to fly to Mars on board the ExoMars 2020 mission.
ExoMars is the space program consisting of two missions to orbit and land on Mars, executed in cooperation by ESA and Roskosmos, the Russian space agency. The first mission, called ExoMars 2016, consists of an orbiter and a lander, which was launched on March 14, 2016, and is scheduled to land on Mars with the decent-module on Wednesday, October 19th. The second ExoMars-spacecraft is scheduled for a launch in July of 2020 and includes a surface platform that will actually land on the planet and a rover that will explore the martian surface.
The scientific payload integrated to the surface platform will consist of several instruments: LaRa, a Belgian experiment conceived by a scientific team from the Royal Observatory of Belgium, is one of the two European instruments selected for the mission and consists of sophisticated communication equipment. The analysis of the radio signals characteristics received on Earth will enable the scientists to derive their scientific data and this will be the first time that Belgian equipment will land on the surface of Mars.
LaRa will deliver the most high-precision measurement of the Red Planet's orientation and rotation, helping to understand better its internal structure. It will also be able to investigate the influence of the redistribution of masses, such as the migration of ice from the polar caps to the atmosphere, and its impact on the rotation of Mars.
The second ExoMars mission with the LaRa-instrument onboard set off 2020 towards our neighbour planet. For ExoMars 2020 OHB will also design the so-called Carrier, which will bring the rover to Mars. In addition, OHB is responsible for a couple of subsystems e.g. the SPDS (sample preparation and distribution system) inside the Mars rover. LaRa will then be operational for more than a year, allowing a sufficient collection of science data.
Véronique Dehant, the Team Coordinator for the LaRa experiment at the Royal Observatory of Belgium (ROB), reported that LaRa will help all to understand why Mars has not evolved similarly to Earth. Mars' internal structure may still be hot enough to contain a liquid core. The deep interior of a planet can be measured by its rotation. An everyday example of the influence of the physical state of the interior on the rotation is that raw (liquid) and cooked (solid) eggs rotate differently. LaRa will allow us to observe the rotation and orientation of Mars and therewith identify its core and evolution.
Additional information is available in the ExoMars brochure, available at this direct link...