Precursor Mission Overview

The design of the MetNet Lander (MNL) was started in August 2000. The main idea behind the MetNet landing vehicles is to use state-of-the-art inflatable entry and descent systems instead of rigid heat shields and parachutes as earlier semi-hard landing devices have used. This way the ratio of the payload mass to the overall mass is optimized, and more mass and volume resources are spared for the science payload. Five different descent system scenarios have been investigated and the behaviour of technological solutions of the chosen descent system scenario has been extensively numerically simulated. In 2002/2003 the new descent system prototype was manufactured. Key parts of it have been successfully tested in the wind tunnels and exposed to heat fluxes simulating the conditions the system will encounter during the entry into the Martian atmosphere.

The following phase and the first phase of the actual Mars MetNet Mission is the MetNet Mars Precursor Mission deployment of one or few MetNet Landers onto the Martian surface during this decade. Two delivery/launch concepts have been preliminarily investigated:

  1. Piggyback delivery attached to the Russian Phobos Sample Return mission.
  2. Dedicated launch using the Russian Volna a converted Submarine/Sea-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM).

Due to the small size of the MetNet Landers other options such as the Ariane Structure for Auxiliary Payloads (ASAP) might also be technically or otherwise feasible.

The mission

The main phases of the mission of a MetNet Lander are as follows:

  • injection of the carrier spacecraft/MetNet Lander combination to a transit trajectory to Mars by means of a launch vehicle
  • Earth-Mars transit
  • separation of the MetNet Lander from the carrier spacecraft
  • MetNet Lander autonomous flight
  • MetNet Lander entry into the Martian atmosphere
  • aerodynamic braking in the Martian atmosphere
  • MetNet Lander landing onto the Martian surface
  • Surface deployment or initial operations
  • Long-term surface operations