The European Space Agency (ESA)’s ExoMars rover has started the thermal vacuum (TVAC) testing at Airbus’ facility in Toulouse, France.

The Airbus-assembled rover, which has been in Toulouse since August, is undergoing a series of tests in preparation for its mission to Mars next year.

The TVAC testing for ExoMars rover will last for around 18 days.

During the testing, the rover will be exposed to intense heat and cold temperatures to simulate the harsh environment of the space, as well as the conditions on Mars’ surface.

The temperatures will be set to two ‘hot’ and two ‘cold’ Martian days or sols. A sol is a solar day on Mars and is equivalent to 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35 seconds.

Airbus’ Stevenage team, Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Toulouse colleagues are jointly working on preparing the rover for the next phase.

Once completed, the rover will be integrated with the Descent Module of the Spacecraft Composite. It will be sent from Cannes to Baikonur for launch in the July-August 2020.

ExoMars programme is undertaken in partnership with the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos with contribution of Nasa.

Thales Alenia Space is the ExoMars mission prime with OHB and Lavochkin serving as mission partners for the carrier and the descent module respectively.

The rover’s scientific eyes were designed and built by University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL).

ExoMars features Thales Alenia Space’s Analytical Laboratory Drawer and Nasa/JPL and IKI/Roscosmos provided the Pasteur payload set.