NASA Home Page Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL Earth Home Page JPL Solar System Home Page JPL Stars and Galaxies Home Page JPL Science and Technology Home Page U.S. Participation in Europe's Mars Express Home Page Follow this link to skip to the main content
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
+ NASA Homepage
U.S. Participation in Europe's Mars Express
Overview Science Technology The Mission People Features Events Multimedia
Mars for Kids
Mars for Students
Mars for Educators
Mars for Press
+ Mars Home
+ Express Home
Mars for Press
Press Releases
Press Kits
Fact Sheets
Image Gallery
Press Releases

May 5, 2003

ESA's Mars Express Ready for Launch

Launch platform in Baikonur, Kazakhstan
Launch platform in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

Just before midnight on 2 June 2003 (23:45 local time, 19:45 CEST), a Soyuz rocket operated by Starsem will lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, and Mars Express will be on its way. The spacecraft was given the green light to launch following a successful flight readiness review on 3 May 2003.

The Mars Express launch window opens on 23 May 2003 and lasts only four weeks. However, just before the spacecraft was due to leave Toulouse, France, for its trip to Baikonur in Kazakhstan, engineers discovered a fault in one of the electronics modules. "Of course, it was the most difficult box to remove from the spacecraft," says Rudi Schmidt, the Mars Express Project Manager, with a smile.

In view of the estimated time needed to correct the fault, the launch date was initially put back from 23 May to 6 June 2003, still within the launch window. However, thanks to the skill and dedication of the engineering team, the job was completed sooner than expected and the launch date was brought forward.

Artist's concept of Mars Express on the Fregat upper stage of a launcher
Artist's concept of Mars Express on the Fregat upper stage of a launcher.

Mars Express is currently being fuelled, an operation that takes about a week. It will then be attached to Fregat, the Soyuz upper stage rocket booster, and mated with the Soyuz rocket. The whole system will be rolled out to the pad four days before launch. The journey to Mars will take six months and the spacecraft should enter its Martian orbit on 26 December 2003.

Europe's contribution to the exploration of the Red Planet will begin soon.

For more information, please contact:

ESA Communication Department
Media Relations Office
Paris, France
Tel: +33 (0)1 5369 7155
Fax: +33 (0)1 5369 7690


Credits Feedback Related Links Sitemap