Mitsubishi Electric Corporation announced today that it has been designated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) as the contractor of the Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) space probe. Mitsubishi Electric, which has already initiated development activities for the project, will be responsible for the MMX’s system design, manufacturing and operation, leveraging technologies that it first developed for the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) and the “Kounotori” H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV).

The MMX’s mission is to determine the origins of Mars and its two moons, Phobos and Deimos, as well as discover how water and organic substances became part of the primordial solar system. The MMX Space Probe has the following features:

  • Proven technology will support world’s first round-trip mission to Martian moon – The MMX space probe will adopt existing space technologies, such as trajectory analysis and orbital deployment, which Mitsubishi Electric originally developed for the SLIM’s high-precision landing system and the HTV’s guidance, navigation and control systems.
  • New precision landing technologies for touching down on unknown terrain – To gather samples of one of the Martian moons, the descent and landing will use a built-in camera and pinpoint landing technology developed for the SLIM. Also, multiple landing attempts in low gravity will be possible using a newly developed shock-absorbing mechanism and unique landing gear.
  • Lightweight design with three-module configuration – A three-module design, consisting of a propulsion module for traveling to Mars’ vicinity, exploration module equipped with research payload and return module for journey back to Earth, will enable the MMX to reduce its weight for more efficient operation by disengaging the propulsion module, and later the exploration module, once their purposes are finished. In addition, to design the MMX within the capacity of the launch vehicle (rocket), an optimum travel plan will be devised to minimize the amount of necessary propellant, which accounts more than half of the total launch weight.
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