ExoMars NOMAD Webstory

NOMAD observes Mars for the first time!

2 Dec 2016

After orbit insertion, TGO is now in an elliptical orbit, passing close to Mars every 4.2 days. During two of these orbits, we were able to switch on all the instruments and run some detailed calibration measurements, allowing us to take as much data as possible before the long sleep during aerobraking. During the pericentre passes, we pointed the LNO and UVIS boresights towards Mars and were able to take our very first spectra of Mars.


And then on the 2nd pass close to Mars, we were able to take a look at some other diffraction orders: the absorption lines seen below are due to carbon monoxide in the atmosphere of Mars! We also had an opportunity to observe Phobos, a moon of Mars - processing the data is still ongoing...

ESA PDS-PSA workshop and DHAWG meeting

22 Nov 2016

Five of the NOMAD team are currently at ESAC in Madrid, attending the Planetary Data System - Planetary Science Archive workshop. This workshop is teaching us how to read, generate and validate the data that we will deliver to ESA, which will be available for anyone to access for free when ready. Tomorrow we will attend the ExoMars Data Handling and Archiving Working Group (DHAWG) meeting, to discuss NOMAD-specific points with the data handling experts at ESA. Below is the workshop group photo, courtesy of Santa Martinez



Planning for measurements in elliptical orbit

28 Oct 2016

After sucessful insertion into an elliptical capture orbit two weeks ago, we have now been allocated two orbits' worth of measurement time. That may not sound much, but in this orbit it gives us over 8 days of opportunities. However, the spacecraft and instruments have strict limitations, and so we have a plan carefully to ensure that none of these constraints are violated. For example, some instruments cannot point within a certain angle of the sun, while the solar panels much be able to view the sun, and manouevres must be separated sufficiently that the satellite has time to point towards the next target. Not to mention that some teams may want to look in different directions from others at any one time! -Ian

Two images showing the types of measurements we would like to make during two orbits of the Mars Capture Orbit.

NOMAD achieves orbit around Mars

19 Oct 2016

Following a long thruster burn, the Trace Gas Orbiter was successfully placed into an elliptical orbit around Mars. Each orbit lasts 4 and a half days, with the altitude above the surface varying from just 280km to 99,000km during each orbit. At the end of November we will have the opportunity to turn on the instruments, including NOMAD, to perform some calibration measurements and check the health of the payloads. There may even be a little time to perform some initial science measurements as we pass close to Mars. -Ian

NOMAD team at the ExoMars SPICE workshop

14 Sep 2016

This week, some of the NOMAD team are at the European Space Astronomy Centre near Madrid for a workshop on using SPICE kernels. These SPICE kernels are a measurement and programming system which allows scientists and engineers to calculate exactly where the spacecraft and planets are at any time and the direction in which the instruments onboard are pointing. This allows us to analyse the data returned from NOMAD and also to plan future observations -Ian

NOMAD looks at the Sun for the first time!

13 Apr 2016 - During the voyage to Mars we have several opportunities to switch on the instruments and run some tests and calibrations. During the night on Monday, we performed a raster scan of the Sun with all the solar channels, so that we could check that we are pointing in the direction that we expect. As our field of view passes over the sun, you can see the signal increase rapidly in both the LNO channel (top video) and UVIS channel (bottom video)!

Videos can be viewed in the Chrome browser (natively) or by opening in VLC    -Ian

TGO Deimos Observations during the High Elliptical Orbit phase

06 Apr 2016 - There is one pass where NOMAD is relatively close to to Deimos (size>6 arcmins) and is well illuminated (phase angle<30 degrees) that it may be visible. Legend: Phobos=black, Deimos=blue, TGO=green, Mars-Sun direction=yellow line).

Videos can be viewed in the Chrome browser (natively) or by opening in VLC    -Ian

TGO Phobos Observations during the High Elliptical Orbit phase

05 Apr 2016 - There are three passes where NOMAD is sufficiently close to to Phobos (size>10 arcmins) and is well illuminated (phase angle<30 degrees) that it could be viewed. Legend: Phobos=black, Deimos=blue, TGO=green, Mars-Sun direction=yellow line)    -Ian

ExoMars Orbit Calculation

05 Apr 2016 - The first animation shows the trajectory of TGO on its way to Mars (Earth=blue, Mars=red, Green=TGO). The second animation shows the trajectory of TGO when reaching Mars (Mars=red, Phobos=black, Deimos=blue, Sun=yellow, TGO=green).

Videos can be viewed in the Chrome browser (natively) or by opening in VLC    -Ian

ExoMars Launch

29 Mar 2016 - In the latest video of their Destination Mars series, EuroNews journalists were on hand at the launch site and in Russian mission control to report on the launch day activities.    -Ian

NOMAD is on its way to Mars!

22 Mar 2016 - Here is a figure showing how the temperature of NOMAD changes during its voyage through space. To stop NOMAD from becoming too cold, it contains survival heaters that automatically switch on at -18C and off at -10C, creating the cycling pattern seen below.    -Ian

ExoMars on its way to solve the red planet's mysteries

14 Mar 2016 - The first of two joint ESA-Roscosmos missions to Mars has begun a seven-month journey to the Red Planet, where it will address unsolved mysteries of the planet?s atmosphere that could indicate present-day geological ? or even biological ? activity. ...

Read the full article at the ESA website

RTBF - DIRECT: Lucie Dendooven + Eddy Neefs

14 Mar 2016 - Lucie Dendooven interviews Eddy Neefs, Head of BIRA Enginering.

Interview on the RTBF. -Laszlo

ExoMars launch updates

14 Mar 2016 - Updates from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for the launch.

Read the full article at the ESA website. -Laszlo

ExoMars launch with hugh media echo

Around the launch date - The launch was followed by the media, politics and the broad public. In the follwoing some links to press releases in English, French, Dutch, German and Russian:

  • ExoMars probe set to sniff out signs of life on the Red Planet New Scientist
  • Are we on the verge of finding life on Mars? Rocket to carry the alien-hunting ExoMars probe to the red planet is ready to launch Daily Mail
  • How ExoMars/TGO gets to where it's going Rocket Science Blog
  • België vliegt prominent mee naar Mars Metro
  • België vliegt prominent mee naar Mars Knack
  • Nomad, le nez belge qui va renifler l'atmosphère de Mars L'Echo
  • Exomars kann Spuren von Leben finden Tagesspiegel
  • Opening Mars Expo in Euro Space Center OIP Sensor Systems - homepage
  • Why ExoMars' Ride to Space takes the Time it does Rocket Science Blog
  • Online translation - Interviews about the ExoMars launch (in Russian) Roscosmos
  • ExoMars 2016 Liftoff Robotics Exploration at the ESA Homepage
  • Le NOMAD belge a décollé avec succès vers Mars L'avenir
  • L'instrument belge NOMAD s'est envolé vers Mars 7sur7
  • Belgische NOMAD vertrokken naar Mars Het Laatste Nieuws
  • How the ExoMars mission could sniff out life on Mars? The Conversation
  • What you need to know about the ExoMars mission (in Russian) DNU.RU
  • De ExoMars op weg naar de Rode Planeet De Standaard
  • Europese ruimtemissie zoekt naar sporen van leven op Mars Het Niewsblad
  • ExoMars zet koers richting Rode Planeet De Redactie
  • Europese Marssonde gelanceerd in Kazachstan Nederlandse Publieke Omroep
  • La mission ExoMars 2016 a quitté l'orbite de la Terre RTBF
  • ExoMars 2016 : l'Europe à la conquête de Mars Le Point
  • À Nivelles, Lambda-X savoure: premier cap franchi pour ExoMars L'avenir
  • CaSSIS ? Schweizer Kamera macht sich heute auf den Weg zum Mars Fotointern
  • Proton-M successfully launches first ExoMars spacecraft NASA Spaceflight
  • Mars TGO probe despatched on methane investigation BBC
  • Nächster Halt Roter Planet - ExoMars gestartet DLR
  • Proton launches ExoMars mission Space News
  • ExoMars mission leaves Earth orbit heading for Mars Euronews
  • Forschungsmission "ExoMars": Reiseziel rot Spiegel Online

Mission Control ready for Mars Launch

12 Mar 2016 - ESA?s mission control conducted the dress rehearsal for the ExoMars launch today, an important final step in preparing the ground teams and systems for the 14 March departure to the Red Planet.

Read the full article at ESA Operation on the ESA website. -Laszlo

Opening of the 'Focus sur/op Mars' Exhibition at the Euro Space Center in Redu

10 March 2016 - A large delegation of BIRA people went to the exhibition opening with press conference. There some NOMAD project partners and many journalists met for interviews.

Here the Press Release. -Laszlo

ExoMars 2016 meets its Proton Rocket

07 Mar 2016 - In pictures: ExoMars 2016 spacecraft united with the Proton rocket.

Read the full article at Robotic exploration of Mars on the ESA website. -Laszlo

ExoMars 2016: Interviews with Nick Thomas and Ann Carine Vandaele

07 Mar 2016 - Here is a video explaining the science and technology behind the ExoMars 2016 orbiter and lander. The video includes interviews by the Principal Investigator of NOMAD, Ann Carine Vandaele, and the Principal Investigator of CaSSIS, Nick Thomas, who each explain how their respective instruments work and what new scientific insights we hope to gain. The NOMAD STM is shown briefly, as is a toned-down version of the CaSSIS pointing dance - the explanation of the stereo imaging principle is usually much more energetic(!) -Ian

Spacecraft encapsulated

03 Mar 2016 - ExoMars 2016 Spacecraft encapsulated with Launcher Fairing.

With less than two weeks until the launch of ExoMars 2016, preparations are proceeding well and the spacecraft composite has now been encapsulated within the launcher fairing at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. ...

Read the full article at Robotic exploration of Mars on the ESA website. -Laszlo

Destination Mars, episode 2: The hunt for methane

25 Feb 2016 - In March 2016 the ExoMars mission sets off towards the red planet, looking for signs of methane. Ann Carine Vandaele, head of the NOMAD instrument on board the ExoMars mission, explains how and why. “Methane is important because on Earth it’s linked to biological processes,” she says. -Laszlo

Visit of journalist Susan Nelson

25 Feb 2016 - Last week the space journalist Susan Nelson from Boffin Media visited BIRA and interviewed Ann-Carine Vandaele. -Laszlo

ExoMars 2016: Launch to Mars!

17 Feb 2016 - Animation visualising milestones during the launch of the ExoMars 2016 mission and its cruise to Mars. The mission comprises the Trace Gas Orbiter and an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, which are scheduled to be launched on a four-stage Proton-M/Breeze-M rocket from Baikonur during the 14–25 March 2016 window. -Laszlo

Together to Mars

16 Feb 2016 - United they stand – Trace gas orbiter and Schiaparelli are joined.

The Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli are now in their launch configuration. The ExoMars 2016 spacecraft will remain united until 16 October, when the entry, descent and landing demonstrator module will separate from the orbiter to descend to the surface of Mars. ...

Read the full article at Robotic exploration of Mars on the ESA website. -Laszlo

Interview with Boris Bethge

09 Feb 2016 - Interview with Boris Bethge, Senior Assembly, Integration and Verification (AIV) Engineer of ExoMars.

"The first mission of ESA's ExoMars programme, which is scheduled to arrive at Mars in October 2016, consists of the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) plus Schiaparelli, the entry, descent and landing demonstrator module.

The AIV Systems Engineer for ExoMars 2016 is Boris Bethge. We asked Boris to tell us more about his background and his work on the mission to Mars. ..."

Read the interview at ExoMars on ESA website

Destination Mars, episode 1: Searching for signs of life

26 Jan 2016 - Jorge Vago, one of the Exomars Project Scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA), outlined the mission. -Laszlo

Busy in Baikonur: a look back at the first few weeks for ExoMars 2016 at the cosmodrome

22 January 2016 - One month ago, the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli (the entry, descent and landing demonstrator module) travelled aboard two Antonov 124 cargo jets from Turin, Italy, to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to be readied for launch in March.

More on
ExoMars Twitter or ExoMars Website . -Laszlo

ExoMars prepares to leave Europe for launch site

25 Nov. 2015 - The ExoMars spacecraft of the 2016 mission is being prepared for shipping to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan ahead of their launch in March. NOMAD, the instrument developed at IASB-BIRA is part of the ExoMars TGO 2016 mission.

More on ExoMars on ESA website.

NOMAD at CSL for the reacceptance tests

22 April 2015 - The NOMAD instrument is back to CSL for some more tests and calibration after the successful swap of the LNO detector. The shroud is going down around NOMAD.

NOMAD instrument shroud from aeronomie bira-iasb on Vimeo.

NOMAD at IABG for a shocking experience !

04 March 2015 - The instrument passed the shock test today! A successful QUAL shock was given in the X-direction (with responses in X, Y and Z meeting the test requirements). The inspection and electrical functional test were OK. The instrument is still functioning as expected and the mirror mechanism is fully operational. No anomalies were detected during and after the test.

NOMAD instrument shock test from aeronomie bira-iasb on Vimeo.

Credits to Alexander Soenen’s perfect movie making skills (click on the image to start the film)

Under vibration

03 March 2015 - Vibration tests at CSL have progressed smoothly.

NOMAD PFM passed the 2.5days of vibration at CSL.
  • Y-axis was completed on Thu 26/02
  • Z-axis was completed on Fri 27/02
  • The out of plane X-axis was completed on Mon 02/03
  • All functional checks and inspections were successful

Set-up with EGSE and shaker. Filter Fan Units are switched-ON during test


20 Jan 2015 - January has already been very busy month, now that we have a fully-working instrument. Many tests have been done; many are still to be done.

Below is a time-lapse video of a group of us working in the cleanroom:

NOMAD - Electrical Calibration Test Time Lapse from aeronomie bira-iasb on Vimeo. -Ian

And finally with UVIS !

19 Jan 2015 - and we now have results from the 3rd channel, UVIS! Here is a spectrum of a calibration lamp, measured in nadir mode:

And below, a spectrum of a white LED lamp, this time in occultation mode:


And now with LNO !

16 Jan 2015 - Some more spectra ... with the LNO channel now in nadir mode:


First absorption spectra of NOMAD !

16 Jan 2015 - During the final tests before closing NOMAD, some measurements were done with the SO channel. Just an infrared lamp in front of the entrance and here you go ... a fantastic spectrum of the air ! Today still from Earth, soon from Mars.

UVIS speaks...

25 June 2014 - The UVIS electronics has been plugged into the SINBAD electronics, following a dedicated visit by OU and MSSL staff to IAA for testing of the communication and capability of the electronics that is being built for the UVIS channel of NOMAD.

After a shaky start, a minor tweak solved the communication problem and UVIS sent its first ever image (of a resolution mask) through the complete UVIS->SINBAD->spacecraft chain.

The image consists of three frames of the CCD (one bias, one dark and one illuminated where the resolution mask can be seen). After two long days of testing at IAA, the UVIS electronics design and build can now move forward, and is an important step forward in ensuring that the UVIS channel operates effectively within NOMAD.

NOMAD First spectrum !

11 June 2014 - The first NOMAD spectrum has been recorded this week during an intensive week of testing the electronic boards and associated software. This first spectrum is just 'background noise', but nevertheless, it proves that the SINBAD electronics are working properly.

It has been obtained using the SINBAD COM prototype board together with SOIR electronics and the SOIR detector today at IAA in Granada.

It is a breakthrough after some weeks of intensive testing and debugging by the teams in Granada and Brussels.

NOMAD had a very busy start to 2014.

4-7 February 2014 - was the 6th ExoMars Science Working Team meeting (or the second since RosCosmos teamed up with ESA). Several NOMAD scientists went to Moscow to the Russian Academy of Sciences, where the meeting was held. (Left)It was cold and snowy the week before the Olympic Games began in Sochi. (Right) Project Engineer Eddy Neefs admires model Russian space hardware.

Moscow 2 Moscow 1

Mars Atmosphere Modelling and Observation workshop

13-17 January 2014: was the Mars Atmosphere Modelling and Observation workshop held in Oxford, UK. This was a chance to meet up with NOMAD Co-Is who came from America, Italy, Spain, the UK and Belgium. We also discussed with our Russian colleagues working on the ACS and Frend instruments on TGO.

On the left, IASB-BIRA scientist Séverine Robert with ACS scientists Sacha and Anna. On the right, the Belgian NOMAD team meets a new team member - Ian Thomas, who moved from Oxford to Brussels to start work as the NOMAD Project Manager from 3 February.

News & press releases 2013

News & press releases 2012

News & press releases 2011

News & press releases 2010

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