28.07.2017 - Press release

ExoMars 2020 rover antenna WISDOM delivered to customer

Picture 1: ExoMars 2020 Rover (© ESA.int)

Picture 2: Structure of the WISDOM ground penetrating Radar antenna

Picture 3-4: Bottom view and backside view of the WISDOM antenna

Picture 5-6: GFRP Honeycomb Core and Integrated Antenna Circuits

The ExoMars mission is one of the most ambitious undertakings ever by a European space industry. For the first time, a rover developed by ESA will land on another planet in order to search for signs of now extinct or perhaps even current extra-terrestrial life.

After approximately 15 years of planning and development, ESA has sent an orbiter to Mars in 2016 as a first step of this project. This orbiter is currently investigating the red planet for trace gases and will also act as the communication link between Earth and the rover that discovers Martian surface and soil once it has landed successfully in 2020.

The rover will be the first mission to combine the capability to move across the surface and to study Mars at depth. It will collect samples with a drill down to a depth of 2 m and analyse them in an on-board laboratory. Underground samples are more likely to include biomarkers, since the tenuous Martian atmosphere offers little protection from radiation and photochemistry at the surface. The primary objective is to land the rover at a site with high potential for finding well-preserved organic material.

One of the rover instruments is called WISDOM, which is an acronym for Water Ice and Subsurface Deposit Observation On Mars. It is a ground-penetrating radar to characterize the soil beneath the rover. WISDOM will be used to decide where to collect subsurface samples for analysis.

Within the ExoMars 2016 project INVENT GmbH has already been responsible for the development, testing and production of primary and tertiary structures of the orbiter. For the current 2020 mission, INVENT has now delivered the structure of the WISDOM antenna to the Technical University of Dresden as part of the scientific ExoMars team. INVENT established the detailed part design, performed the structural analyses, developed new production processes and manufactured test articles and the flight hardware.

The maximum weight of the spacecraft and its payload for a flight of approximately 230 million km to Mars is very tightly limited. With this in mind, only high-quality materials and special lightweight construction methods were used in the manufacture of the structures. The load-bearing structure of the antenna consists primarily of structural sandwich panels with glass fibre reinforced polymer (GFRP) facesheets and CCORE. CCORE is a sophisticated honeycomb product developed by INVENT which is made of FRP, in this case GFRP (see picture 4 left hand-side). Standard materials like aluminium honeycomb cores could not be used because of the electro-magnetic shielding. This is even more important, since the antenna RF emitting components are strongly integrated into the load bearing structure. The facesheets carry not only radiating layers of copper, but also the filigree antenna circuits (see picture 4 right hand-side). For this, the fibre composite specialist INVENT successfully developed and tested new processes which enable the production of sandwich panels with integrated electronical functions.

INVENT finished the design and the structural analyses in 2013. Production and the comprehensive mechanical, thermal and electrical tests of all flight hardware were completed in 2017 with the delivery to the customer, the Technical University of Dresden. The journey of the ExoMars rover radar antenna now proceeds to France where it will be integrated to the other instrument components. The rover will finally be launched on its journey to Mars from Kourou in French Guiana in spring 2020.                                                                              

Contact:          Dr.-Ing. Fabian Preller

Project Management

Phone: +49 531 / 244 66 24
Fax: +49 531 / 244 66 88


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