4.1) Europe

V0.2 - 17-04-2020


Europe may not be the first region that comes to mind when thinking about Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) systems, but it has achieved significant milestones in this field. From successful parachute tests to Mars landings, Europe has made remarkable advancements that deserve recognition. Several interesting European missions include the Galileo and Huygens missions.

Following the ARD, Europe continued to push the boundaries of space exploration with the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV). In 2015, the IXV embarked on a suborbital flight atop a Vega rocket. Reaching an apogee of 412 km, the vehicle performed an atmospheric entry at a speed of 1.2 km/s. Notably, the IXV successfully demonstrated the atmospheric entry of a pure lifting body spaceplane. After the glide phase, a series of parachutes facilitated a safe descent, while airbags ensured the vehicle remained afloat upon landing in the water. The IXV mission represented another significant step in Europe's pursuit of advanced EDL systems.

Europe's expertise in EDL systems extended beyond Earth, as exemplified by the Beagle 2 Mars lander. In 2003, Beagle 2 successfully touched down on Mars, marking a significant achievement for European space exploration. Although contact with the lander was lost after landing, subsequent investigations revealed that one of the solar panels had failed to deploy as intended. Nevertheless, the EDL phase of the mission was considered a resounding success, showcasing Europe's capabilities in navigating the challenging Martian atmosphere.

In Europe's pursuit of Mars exploration, the ExoMars 2016 mission represented a significant endeavour. Unfortunately, during the main parachute phase, the mission encountered an unexpected mishap resulting in a crash landing. While the mission did not achieve its intended goals, the incident highlighted the complex nature of EDL systems and the challenges involved in landing on Mars.

ARD Pre flight

IXV Post flight

Beagle 2 on Mars

The Advanced Recovery Demonstrator (ARD) stands as a pivotal mission in Europe's space exploration endeavours. Launched in 1998 as part of the Ariane 5 (flight Ariane 503), the ARD was a vehicle resembling the iconic Apollo Enty vehicle. During the mission, the ARD separated from the second stage and reached an apogee of 830 km. It then re-oriented itself for atmospheric entry and executed a series of parachute deployments, enabling a safe landing. Notably, the ARD marked Europe's first-ever space mission that included both launch and landing phases. Although the intended application for the knowledge gained from the ARD, the European Crew Transport Vehicle (CTV), was later cancelled, the mission's achievements remain a significant source of information for Europen EDL knowledge.

Europe's accomplishments in EDL systems and Mars landings have solidified its position as a key player in space exploration. From the groundbreaking ARD mission to the IXV's successful flight, Europe has consistently demonstrated its engineering prowess and commitment to pushing the boundaries of scientific discovery. As Europe continues its pursuit of space exploration, these achievements serve as critical milestones, paving the way for future advancements and collaborations on both Earth and beyond.