This will be Europe’s first attempt at investigating Venus and it follows on from the Mars Express mission and is based on the Mars Express spacecraft.
Venus Express, with a cost of 2 000 million kronor, should have reached Venus by the 6 April 2006 but the launch date that was originally set for 26 October has now been delayed.
This is due to contamination inside the launcher’s fairing, which protects the spacecraft during launch. Venus Express is to be launched on a Soyuz-Fregat launch vehicle and the contamination may have come from either the Fregat upper stage of the rocket or from the fairings.
The space probe will now have to be dismounted from the launch vehicle and cleaned before remounting. The new launch date has not been fixed yet but it is hoped that the launch will only be delayed for a few days.
The space probe is on the way to Venus to explore the atmosphere and answer question as to why Venus, a planet that is so like Earth in so many ways, is in other ways so very different to Earth. Understanding the complex interactions that occur in the atmosphere on Venus may also help to understand what is happening to our own planet.
On board the Venus Express will be communications equipment and computers built by Saab Ericsson Space. The equipment will be used to send scientific data about Venus back to Earth. The Institute for Space Physics has built one of the probes scientific instruments, the Aspera 4. The Aspera 4 is an upgraded version of Aspera 3, which flew to Mars. The instrument analyses plasma in the atmosphere of Venus.