Polish firm produces vital component for Mars mission

Sener Polska has designed and produced one of the key elements of a project to land a rover on Mars. The Umbilical Release Mechanism (URM) is a connection between the Mars rover and its landing platform, which will be put on the red planet as part of the ExoMars mission.

Poland is involved in the ExoMars mission as a member of the European Space Agency (ESA).

ExoMars is a two-part mission the aim of which is to search for signs of life on Mars as well as to better prepare for future manned missions. ExoMars is a joint undertaking of ESA and Russia's Roscosmos. In 2016, a satellite was launched which orbits Mars researching its atmosphere and fulfilling telecommunications functions. In the second part of the mission, in 2020, a lander will be launched to research the surface of the red planet.

"For the first time, an Earth mechanism will drill into the surface of Mars in search of hidden traces of life," explained Ilona Tobjasz of Sener Polska. She went on to explain that Sener, commissioned by Airbus Defence and Space, has designed and produced one of the most vital components - a so-called 'umbilical cord' comprised of an electro-mechanical connection between the lander and the landing platform that will carry it to the planet's surface.

The lander will enter Mars's atmosphere within the landing platform. "After reaching the planet's surface, the landing platform will unfold its solar panels and start charging the lander," Ilona Tobjasz continued. "During the launch of the robot, power will be transferred through the umbilical cord made by Sener." After charging, she added, the lander will raise itself up onto its wheels and then the umbilical cord will disengage allowing the vehicle to explore the planet surface.

The Umbilical Release Mechanism is made up of a primary and reserve power supply and has been designed to function in the most demanding conditions of interplanetary space, including high radiation levels and temperatures approaching absolute zero.

According to Tobjasz, ExoMars (Exobiology on Mars) is one of ESA's most important missions and an important step in space exploration. "It's the first such advanced European robot to land on another planet," she said. "We're part of a pioneering project not just for Poland but for the whole of the European space industry."

Sener has been responsible for the entire URM project, from concept, through production to testing and the creation of a flight model which is currently being tested and will land on Mars in 2021. Sener emphasised that it is cooperating with "tested Polish partners" on the project.