Mars Express

In­sight in­to the his­to­ry of the Mar­tian cli­mate

DLR's High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft has been mapping Mars in unprecedented resolution, in three dimensions and in colour since 2004. Its data are an essential resource for current and future Mars research. The insights obtained during the course of the mission have massively changed our understanding of the Red Planet's geological development.

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 Institute for Planetary Research in Berlin. The camera is mapping Mars in three dimensions in the highest-ever resolution.





2 June 2003, 19.45 CEST

Arrival in Mars orbit:

25 December 2003, 04.00 CET

Launch site:

Baikonur, Kasachstan



Ground stations:

Perth (Australia), Kourou (French Guiana)

Operational times:

6.5 - 7 hours per day

Mission Control:

European Space Operations Center (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 several times, with the most recent extension lasting until 2026.

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


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


8 engines for orbit corrections, each can thrust 10 Newtons; 1 master engine for braking in Mars orbit, thrust 400 Newton; stabilisers

Instruments Orbiter


HRSC (High-Resolution Stereoscopic Camera)

German-led project: Study of the atmosphere, surface and gravitation

MaRS (Mars Radio Science Experiment)

German-led project: Study of the atmosphere, surface and gravitation

PFS (Planetary Fourier Spectrometer)

Italian-led project; German participation: Infrared spectrometer for the investigation of the atmosphere

ASPERA (Analyser of Space Plasmas and Energetic Atoms)

Swedish-led project: Analysis of the reciprocal effect of the Mars atmosphere with the interplanetary medium

MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding)

Italian-led project: Investigation of the Martian soil depth and also the upper atmosphere

OMEGA (Observatoire pour la Minéralogie, l’Eau, les Glaces et l’Activité)

French-led project; developed for the Mars-96 mission: Infrared spectrometer for the investigation of the surface composition

SPICAM (Spectroscopic Investigation of the Atmosphere of Mars)

developed for the Rosetta mission: Ultraviolet spectrometer for the investigation of the atmosphere




Background articles



Michael Müller

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Corporate Communications
Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne
Tel: +49 2203 601-3717

Daniela Tirsch

Principal Investigator HRSC
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute of Planetary Research
Rutherfordstraße 2, 12489 Berlin

Ulrich Köhler

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute of Planetary Research
Rutherfordstraße 2, 12489 Berlin