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ESA approves deployment of Mars Express radar boom
Posted: Tue, Feb 8, 2005, 7:30 AM ET (1230 GMT)
Mars Express in orbit (ESA illustration) The European Space Agency announced Tuesday that it has given its approval for the long-delayed deployment of a radar boom on its Mars Express spacecraft after concluding the deployment had little chance of damaging the spacecraft. ESA had planned to deploy the 40-meter MARSIS boom last year, a few months after Mars Express entered orbit around the planet, but held off after engineering simulations by the boom's manufacturer, Astro Aerospace, found the possibility that a whiplash effect could cause the booms to rebound and strike the spacecraft before locking into place. An ESA review board concluded last month that while engineers could not rule out the possibility that the booms could hit the spacecraft during deployment, the energy from any impact would be small and thus the chance of causing any serious damage minimal. ESA is planning to deploy the booms in early May, but could move up the deployment to late April if preparations move ahead of schedule. The MARSIS radar is designed to study the planet's ionosphere as well as look for evidence of subsurface water.
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