Two pioneering ESA spacecraft, Mars Express and Rosetta, are currently
being assembled and tested in preparation for launch in 2003. Now, for
the first time, the painstaking progress towards the completion of these
technological marvels can be observed daily on computer screens around
the world.

The Mars Express webcam is located at the Astrium SAS integration
facilities in Toulouse, France. The camera view focuses on the Electrical
Validation and Functional Bench, which consists of experiment and
spacecraft units as well as the extensive test equipment around the bench.
Some of the units on the bench are final flight items and others are
electrical or engineering models.

The test bench was installed in the Astrium SAS facility in the summer of
2000 and has been used to integrate the spacecraft and experiment units.
The build-up of the test bench will proceed until September 2001 when a
complete system will be available for integrated system testing to prove
the overall Mars Express functionality.

At the completion of the system tests, and in coordination with the
parallel development and testing of the spacecraft flight structure and
propulsion system, the units on the test bench will be removed, packed
and transported to Alenia Spazio in Turin for integration on the flight
spacecraft, starting in October 2001.

Future views from the Mars Express webcam will show this integration at
Alenia Spazio. Once the flight model has been integrated and checked,
the entire spacecraft will be shipped back to Toulouse for environmental
testing at Intespace during spring and summer of 2002.

The final terrestrial voyages of Mars Express will be a return to Turin
after testing in Toulouse followed by the journey to the Baikonur launch
site in Kazakhstan in the spring of 2003 for the scheduled launch the
following June.

The Rosetta webcam currently broadcasts a view of the Rosetta spacecraft
flight model being assembled in the clean room at Alenia Spazio, Turin.
At the moment both the EQM (Electrical and Qualification Model) and PFM
(Proto Flight Model) are located side by side at Alenia. The EQM will
soon complete its Integration and Test programme and then all work will
shift to the flight model.

In September 2001, once the spacecraft and its instruments are completed,
the flight model will be sent to ESTEC in The Netherlands for the
six-month-long environmental test campaign. It will then be transported
to IABG in Munich for a DC magnetic test. Shipment to the Kourou launch
site in French Guiana will take place towards the end of 2002.

Rosetta’s eight-year odyssey to Comet Wirtanen will begin with the launch
of an Ariane-5 rocket from Kourou in January 2003.


* Mars Express webcam

* Rosetta webcam


[Image 1:]
Mars Express webcam image. This webcam image, recorded on 7 May 2001, shows
the Mars Express test bench at the Astrium SAS integration facilities in
Toulouse, France. The boxes attached to the tables represent scientific
instruments and spacecraft equipment. Copyright: ESA ©

[Image 2:]
Rosetta webcam image. This image was recorded by the Rosetta webcam on 4 May
2001. It shows the Rosetta spacecraft being assembled in the clean room at
Alenia Spazio, Turin. Copyright: ESA ©