Mission overview

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Mars Express mission was launched by a Soyuz/Fregat rocket on 2 June 2003 at 19:45 Central European Summer Time from the Russian space centre at Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

The mission supplies Scientists with important new data about the geology, mineralogy and atmosphere of Mars. The search for traces of earlier Mars life, one of the most ambitious goals of the project, provides a large challenge for the scientists.

DLR is making important contributions to Mars Express. The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) was developed by DLR at the Institut für Planetenforschung (Institute for Planetary Research) in Berlin. The camera is mapping Mars in three dimensions in the highest-ever resolution.

Also, DLR Berlin was key in helping develop the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) instrument. Three further experiments - MaRS, MARSIS and ASPERA - are financed by the DLR Space Agency.

Fact sheet


Launch: 2 June 2003, 19.45 CEST
Arrival in Mars orbit: 25 December 2003, 04.00 CET
Launch site: Baikonur, Kazakhstan
Launcher: Soyuz/Fregat
Ground stations: Perth (Australia), Kourou (French Guiana)
Operational times: 6.5 - 7 hours per day
Mission Control: European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), Darmstadt
Nominal mission: 1 Mars year (ca. 2 Earth years ~ 687 days); because of its enormous scientific yield, ESA has extended the Mars Express mission four times, with the most recent extension lasting until the end of 2018.
Orbit type: Ellipse, Final orbit: 250 km (closest approach to Mars) x 11.583 km (furthest point from Mars); Inclination 87 degrees; Orbit period 7.5 hours



Launch mass: 1042 kg (427 kg fuel)
Scientific payload: Orbiter 116 kg, Lander 60 kg
Dimensions: Orbiter 1.5 m x 1.8 m x 1.4 m; Solar arm mit 12 m width, Surface area 11.42 sq metres
Energy supply: Orbiter: Solar arm: Si-cells, 660W with 1.5 AE; Energy storage 3 Li-Ion batteries, Overall capacity 64.8 Ah; Power supply 28 V; Maximum performance 450 W
Data communication: X-band (7,1 GHz) and S-band (2,1 GHz). Communication: omnidirectional low-gain antenna (LGA), 4 m; directional high-gain antenna (HGA), 1.8 m; 2 di-pole antennas, both 20 m
Propulsion: 8 engines for orbit corrections, each can thrust 10 Newtons; 1 master engine for braking in Mars orbit, thrust 400 Newton; stabilisers


Last modified: 09/03/2015 12:31:11

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Elke Heinemann
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) - German Aerospace Center

Tel.: +49 2203 601-2867

Fax: +49 2203 601-3249
Ulrich Köhler
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) - German Aerospace Center

Tel.: +49 30 67055-215

Fax: +49 30 67055-402

Mars Express in orbit around Mars

Mars Express in einem Orbit um den Mars

Artist's impression of the European spacecraft Mars Express in orbit around Mars (2003).


  • DLR Institute of Planetary Research / HRSC