Mar 04, 2016: Volga-Dnepr Airlines is continuing to support the ExoMars mission organised jointly by the European Space Agency and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, by delivering a Breeze-M booster to Baikonur in preparation for the space vehicles’ scheduled launch on March 14, 2016. It was carried from Moscow to Kazakhstan onboard one of Volga-Dnepr’s An-124 freighters.
The booster was protected by a special transportation container to maintain the integrity of its sensitive equipment. The 16-tonne payload was loaded into the aircraft using the An-124’s own overhead cranes. After the safe arrival and unloading of the booster at Baikonur, Volga-Dnepr returned the transport container to Moscow.
The Breeze-M Payload Assist Module was manufactured by the M.V. Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, which established a partnership with Volga-Dnepr Airlines in 1999. The Proton-M launch vehicle system, also made by the Khrunichev Center, will launch into the Mars orbit Schiaparelli – an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module – and a Trace Gas Orbiter module. This is the first in a series of Exomars missions.
In December, Volga-Dnepr Airlines operated three flights to deliver Schiaparelli and Trace Gas Orbiter modules from Turin, Italy, to the Baikonur launch site. One of the goals of the Trace Gas Orbiter, in addition to exploring the composition of the planet’s atmosphere, is to help identify a suitable location to land a robot vehicle on the Mars surface. This is scheduled for 2018 to enable the vehicle to drill in the planet’s soil and to take samples.
The transportation of space cargo is one of Volga-Dnepr’s key businesses and areas of specialisation, accounting for 34 percent of the airline’s flight operations. In 2015, Volga-Dnepr operated 75 An-124-100 flights to deliver various types of space equipment, representing a 30 percent increase of this market sector over 2014. Last year, Volga-Dnepr Airlines delivered approximately 3,000 tonnes of space equipment.