The Small Mars System

E. Fantino, M. Grassi, P. Pasolini, F. Causa, C. Molfese, R. Aurigemma, N. Cimminiello, D. de la Torre, P. Dell'Aversana, F. Esposito, L. Gramiccia, F. Paudice, F. Punzo, I. Roma, R. Savino, G. Zuppardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The Small Mars System is a proposed mission to Mars. Funded by the European Space Agency, the project has successfully completed Phase 0. The contractor is ALI S.c.a.r.l., and the study team includes the University of Naples “Federico II”, the Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte and the Space Studies Institute of Catalonia. The objectives of the mission are both technological and scientific, and will be achieved by delivering a small Mars lander carrying a dust particle analyser and an aerial drone. The former shall perform in situ measurements of the size distribution and abundance of dust particles suspended in the Martian atmosphere, whereas the latter shall demonstrate low-altitude flight in the rarefied planetary environment. The mission-enabling technology is an innovative umbrella-like heat shield, known as IRENE, developed and patented by ALI. The mission is also a technological demonstration of the shield in the upper atmosphere of Mars. The core characteristics of SMS are the low cost (120 M€) and the small size (320 kg of wet mass at launch, 110 kg at landing), features which stand out with respect to previous Mars landers. To comply with them is extremely challenging at all levels, and sets strict requirements on the choice of the materials, the sizing of payloads and subsystems, their arrangement inside the spacecraft and the launcher's selection. In this contribution, the mission and system concept and design are illustrated and discussed. Special emphasis is given to the innovative features and to the challenges faced in the development of the work.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)168-181
Number of pages14
JournalActa Astronautica
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • Mars landers
  • Planetary exploration
  • Space missions


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