Construction of the Mars Express spacecraft can now begin, after final approval for the design was granted on Tuesday. A
meeting chaired by Roger Bonnet, ESA’s Director of Scientific Programmes, and Jean-Jacques Dourdain, Director for Science Strategy and Technical Assessment, gave the approval after hearing a presentation on the findings of the science and engineering review team. The review team had endorsed the Mars Express design last December, after spending a week poring over the plans at the offices of Matra Marconi Space (MMS) in Toulouse. Starsem, the company that is providing the Fregat-Soyuz launcher, and MMS also presented their latest activities yesterday.

The meeting brought to an end the process known as the Preliminary Design Review (PDR), which scrutinises allstages of the design phase (Phase B). “The meeting went smoothly and the outcome is that Mars Express moves now full steam into Phase C/D (the construction phase),” said Rudi Schmidt, Mars Express Project Manager. “The findings of the review team will be taken on board by the Mars Express project and resolved as part of the normal work. This is a very good result and we have been popping a few corks.”