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Mars Express boom deployment postponed
Posted: Fri, Apr 30, 2004, 8:17 AM ET (1217 GMT)
Mars Express in orbit (ESA illustration) ESA has decided to delay the deployment of radar booms on the Mars Express spacecraft because of concerns the boom could damage the spacecraft. ESA announced Thursday that they had decided to delay the deployment of the booms that will be used by the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) radar instrument. The booms had been scheduled to be deployed this week. Simulations found that during the deployment of the twin 20-meter booms, which unfold from the main body of the spacecraft like an accordion, the booms could swing back and forth enough to strike the spacecraft. A previous analysis of the boom deployment dynamics, made by Astro Aerospace, the California company that supplied the boom, had concluded there was no evidence of any backlash. Spacecraft engineers plan to study the issue for the next few weeks before deciding when and how to deploy the booms. MARSIS, which requires the deployment of the booms to operate, is designed to study the Martian upper atmosphere as well as look for evidence of subsurface water.
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