Monday, January 18, 2016

Project Air Freight Company Joins with Logistics Group to Aid Space Exploration Programme

Bowie May be Gone but Search Continues to See 'Is There Life on Mars?'
Shipping News Feature
EUROPE – RUSSIA – KAZAKHSTAN – Despite the world mourning the loss of a great musical talent the search for life on the red planet continues, and last month large project air freight specialist Volga-Dnepr Airlines cooperated with French owned group Bollore Logistics to carry essential equipment for the ExoMars space exploration programme that aims to discover any traces of life on Mars. Three flights departed from Turin in Italy in the run up to Christmas headed for Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome via Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on behalf of the consignor Thales Alenia Space Italia.

The cargo included the Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstration module (EDM) as well as the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) which will be launched into space in the first mission in March 2016. In total, Volga-Dnepr transported 20 x 20-foot containers, including two ‘hi-cube’ containers with materials for the ExoMars project launch campaign, loose cargo and a satellite container. Each of the flights commenced loading at 0900hrs and departed from Turin Airport at 1530hrs on their way to the Russian consignee, FGUP TsENKI, which provides launch services for the space industry.

ExoMars is a joint programme of robotic exploration between the European Space Agency and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos. The 2016 mission will reach Mars in October and aims to demonstrate Europe’s ability to land a probe on the Red Planet. Meanwhile, the Orbiter will help to determine the landing site for the second mission in 2018 when the descent module will place a rover on Mars to drill down two metres into the Martian soil to take samples and perhaps discover any traces of life. The data captured by the probe is expected to feed the work of researchers for many years to come as they analyse the soil’s chemical, physical and biological properties.

This movement is hardly of course our first space transport story, still less the first movement of this type the Russian airline has undertaken. In 2011 we reported how the company had transported major parts of the launch vehicle for NASA’s most ambitious ‘Curiosity’ rover mission to Mars. In support of the mission, a Volga-Dnepr An-124-100 freighter delivered the Atlas V launch system, part of the Atlas rocket family operated by the Lockheed Martin-Boeing joint venture, United Launch Alliance, from Huntsville, Alabama, to Cape Canaveral in Florida.

So important indeed has this traffic become that aerospace cargoes now represent around 30% of the Group’s business with the main cargoes carried being satellites, helicopters, aircraft and parts. To date Volga-Dnepr has operated over 5,250 flights for customers in the industry, delivering more than 173,395 tonnes. Dennis Gliznoutsa, Vice President, Sales at Volga-Dnepr Airlines, said:

“We are extremely proud to once again be the chosen air transportation partner for what could be an historic mission to Mars. We are excited to be part of the project and will be closely following the results of the first mission in 2016. We wish all of the partners in ExoMars great success in their endeavours.”

Photo: Loading in Turin.