Press releases

Thales Alenia Space, ALTEC, the Italian Space Agency and the European Space Agency inaugurated the ExoMars 2020 Rover Operations Control Centre

Press releases

Thales Alenia Space, ALTEC, the Italian Space Agency and the European Space Agency inaugurated the ExoMars 2020 Rover Operations Control Centre

Available in

    ROCC will control Rover surface operations
    as it searches for signs of past or present life

    Turin, May 30, 2019 – The ExoMars 2020 Rover Operations Control Center (ROCC) was inaugurated today by Thales Alenia Space (the joint venture between Thales 67% and Leonardo 33%), ALTEC (Aerospace Logistics Technology Engineering Company), the Italian space agency ASI and the European Space Agency (ESA). It is located on the premises of ALTEC, an engineering and logistics services joint venture between Thales Alenia Space and ASI.

    Developed as part of the ExoMars 2020 contract, the ROCC will control and monitor the Rover’s operations. Commands will be transmitted via the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), launched on the ExoMars 2016 mission and now in orbit around Mars, and the space communications network at ESA's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.

    Conducted by ESA in conjunction with Russian space agency Roscosmos, ExoMars 2020 will deliver a European rover and a Russian platform to the surface of Mars. A Proton rocket will launch the spacecraft, which will arrive at Mars on March 19, 2021 after a long journey. The ExoMars rover will travel across the Martian surface to search for signs of life, trying to answer questions that have long fascinated humanity. It will collect samples with a drill developed and built by Leonardo and analyze them using its own advanced built-in laboratory. ExoMars will be the first mission to combine the capabilities of moving across the surface and studying Mars in depth.

    The ROCC will start operation in July 2020, when the ExoMars 2020 spacecraft lifts off for the interplanetary trip.

    “This is the crucial place on Earth from where we will listen to the rover’s instruments, see what She sees and send commands to direct the search for evidence of life on and under the surface,” said Jan Wörner, ESA’s Director General.

    “Italy has, trough Italian Space Agency (ASI), a strong knowledge in the study and exploration of Mars thanks to its participation in the most important International missions for the study of the Red Planet. ExoMars mission represents the summary of Italian technological ability reached during these years that today, with the birth of Altec mission control center, finds its widest expression in the demonstration of the skills of the scientific community and of our space industry. Through ROCC, Europe will have the great opportunity to manage the activities of the Rover on Mars so as to plan and test its movements on the surface of Mars, searching for areas which are more appropriate for reaching the goal of the mission: the search of traces which may be associated to past or present forms of life. This will allow us to identify and spread crucial information for a complete knowledge of the planet. ROCC will thus play a key role for the success of ExoMars 2020 rover as well as for ASI itself. This will be the first step to address the control center towards new missions for the study of Mars as well as of other celestial bodies. We have invested in this activity because we firmly believe that it represents an essential element for the future of the robotic exploration of the Universe” - Said Giorgio Saccoccia, president of Italian Space Agency.

    “We are delighted to play a leading role in Europe’s ambitious program to study the Red Planet contributing with our expertise and technology” - said Donato Amoroso, Senior Vice-President, Observation, Exploration and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space - “Today marks the inauguration of the ROCC, reflecting a fruitful collaboration between space agencies and industry, and signaling the beginning of a search for answers to questions that have long fascinated humanity.”

    “ALTEC is honored to be at forefront of European Robotic exploration with this important contribution that is the Rover Operations Control Center - said Vincenzo Giorgio, CEO of Altec - The ROCC is the result of dedication and a strong goal oriented approach by agencies, industry and its subcontractors, to make the first European Robotic exploration mission a success, where the ROCC is the brain of the entire mission”.

    The Rover Operations Control Center comprises several different systems and facilities:

    • Operations room, where all Rover operations are planned, managed and executed in conjunction with the program scientific team.
    • Mars Terrain Simulator (MTS), which simulates the Martian terrain (in terms of both shape and composition) to support daily ground operations, perform functional testing of the ExoMars Rover Ground Terrain Model (GTM) and reproduce the Rover’s surface mission to account for any contingencies.
    • Tilting platform: a structure measuring 8 x 8 meters that is used as a simulated surface to test mission scenarios using the Rover Ground Test Model.
    • Drilling and illumination system, which reproduces the soil drilling operations on Mars and simulates fluctuations in lighting conditions on Mars.

    The ExoMars 2020 mission is now at an advanced development stage. After integrating and testing the Rover’s core system, the Analytical Laboratory Drawer (ALD), at its facility in Torino, Italy, Thales Alenia Space continues to integrate and test the Rover Ground Test Module, a full Rover simulator equipped with a copy of the ALD module. This test module will be used in Turin to rehearse all operational and scientific activities related to the Rover’s mission on Mars.

    Thales Alenia Space is also developing the mission control software and completing the integration and testing of the Descent Module (provided by Lavochkin), including its mating to the Carrier Module (provided by OHB). This assembly will then be shipped to the Thales Alenia Space’s Cannes plant in July for environmental testing. Before leaving Cannes, the Rover, named “Rosalind Franklin”, will be mated with the Landing Platform, “Kazachok”, and the Carrier Module to form the complete ExoMars 2020 spacecraft. The launch is planned for July 2020 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

    About the ExoMars 2020 mission

    ExoMars is a European Space Agency program in conjunction with the Russian space agency Roscosmos and a contribution from NASA. The launch from Baikonur will take place between July 26 and August 11, 2020. The spacecraft will take a direct ballistic trajectory to Mars, followed by the Descent Module separating from the Carrier Module, entry into the Martian atmosphere and the landing of the Descent Module with the Rover, weighing approximately 2 metric tons, on March 19, 2021. The Rover will then leave the landing platform and explore the planet, taking and analyzing soil samples to a depth of 2 meters, including a search for present or past life in these samples by its own lab. It will also carry out geochemical and atmospheric studies of the surface and underground environments.

    About the industrial consortium:

    Thales Alenia Space in Italy is the ExoMars mission prime contractor, with responsibility for the design, development and testing of the entire system, as well as the development of the Carrier Module navigation and guidance system and the EDL/GNC the Rover, including the Analytical Laboratory Drawer (ALD), and supplier of key components on the DM, including the radar altimeter. Thales Alenia Space in Italy has also formed an extensive technical partnership with Lavochkin of Russia, including European contributions to the development of the Descent Module, Kazachok. OHB is in charge of developing the Carrier Module, as well as certain ALD subsystems (SPDS mechanisms, structure and harness). Thales Alenia Space is responsible for Rover operations in the ROCC. It has developed the Rover Module Mission Operations Concept and it is responsible for the definition of operation of the Rover operations both during the Cruise Phase and Surface Phase. The Rover itself is provided by Airbus Defence and Space in the UK. Leonardo is developing the ExoMars drill, which will dig into the Mars subsoil to a depth of 2 meters, plus the drill and ALD control unit and software. ALTEC (Aerospace Logistics Technology Engineering), a joint subsidiary of Thales Alenia Space (63.75%) and ASI (36.25%, is responsible for the design, development and maintenance of the ROCC (Rover Operations Control Center) and for controlling the Rover on the Martian surface. Thales Alenia Space is also in charge of the TGO (Trace Gas Orbiter), launched on the ExoMars 2016 mission and now in orbit around Mars, which will relay all information from and to the Rover.

    About Thales Alenia Space

    Drawing on over 40 years of experience and a unique combination of skills, expertise and cultures, Thales Alenia Space delivers cost-effective solutions for telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, environmental management, exploration, science and orbital infrastructures. Governments and private industry alike count on Thales Alenia Space to design satellite-based systems that provide anytime, anywhere connections and positioning, monitor our planet, enhance management of its resources, and explore our Solar System and beyond. Thales Alenia Space sees space as a new horizon, helping to build a better, more sustainable life on Earth. A joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), Thales Alenia Space also teams up with Telespazio to form the parent companies’ Space Alliance, which offers a complete range of services. Thales Alenia Space posted consolidated revenues of about 2.5 billion euros in 2018 and has around 8,000 employees in nine countries.

    Thales Alenia Space – Press Contacts:

    Sandrine Bielecki
    Tel: +33 (0)4 92 92 70 94

    Chrystelle Dugimont
    Tel: +33 (0)4 92 92 74 06

    Cinzia Marcanio
    Tel: +39 06 41512685

    About Altec

    ALTEC (Aerospace Logistics Technology Engineering Company) is a public-private company owned by Thales Alenia Space in Italy and the Italian space agency ASI. Founded in March 2001, ALTEC has established itself as an international center of excellence for the provision of engineering and logistics services to support International Space Station operations and use, as well as the development and implementation of planetary exploration missions. Reflecting its shareholders’ strategies and the changing market environment, ALTEC has broadened its presence in the aerospace industry, with a stronger focus on business development and the emerging space economy. ALTEC has a workforce of 80 highly skilled technicians and engineers, making it a key player in the space sector and a force in the local economy.

    Press contact: Daniela Souberan,

    Photo copyrights: ©Thales Alenia Space/Master Image Programmes - © ALTEC & © Thales Alenia Space.