IDEFIX rover handover complete and ready for MMX and the Martian moons

On March 7, 2024, the official handover to JAXA of the rover “IDEFIX” was completed in Kamakura, Japan. IDEFIX was developed by CNES (French National Centre for Space Studies) and DLR (German Aerospace Center) and will be installed on the Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission spacecraft. The MMX mission will travel to the Martian sphere and explore the Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, before returning to Earth with a sample collected from Phobos.

IDEFIX handed over to JAXA. From left to right : Markus Grebenstein (DLR), Yoshikawa Kento (JAXA), Stephane Mary (CNES)

IDEFIX will land before the MMX spacecraft on the surface of Phobos and explore the moon, analyzing properties of the surface regolith that will reduce the risk of the landing and sample acquisition operations by the main spacecraft, as well as acquire calibration data for scientific observations.

IDEFIX arrived in Japan from Europe in mid-February and was delivered to the Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (MELCO) facility in Kamakura, where the final testing prior to the handover confirmed that there were no abnormalities.

JAXA will keep preparing to ensure the safe arrival of the MMX mission at the Martian moons together with IDEFIX, entrusted by CNES and DLR.

Stephane Mary (CNES), Markus Grebenstein (DLR) and Kawakatsu Yasuhiro (JAXA)

DLR Project Manager for IDEFIX development, Markus Grebenstein said:

“When I saw the spacecraft panel, this huge panel, I felt how much of an honour it was to be part of this mission. It’s a complex mission with very ambitious goals and many international contributions. It’s really great to be part of this and I was delighted that the rover was accepted by JAXA. Of course, it is a bit sad to “hand-over” the rover. After almost five years of development, it’s not ours anymore! But we’re convinced that JAXA will do the best with the rover, and together we will have really good results.”

CNES Project Manager for IDEFIX development, Stephane Mary said:

“The main challenge with IDEFIX was to create a rover that can go somewhere where nobody has been before! We had to create a design that was compatible with many different kinds of surface (regolith), and make hypotheses about what Phobos will be like. Of course exploration always involves taking some risks! We’re now excited to enter this new phase of the Project, with the tests that will be conducted in Japan, and and we’re thinking about the operation on Phobos.”

JAXA Project Manager for MMX, Kawakatsu Yasuhiro said:

“This handover is not only the handover of the hardware, but also the handover of the responsibility. We at JAXA and our contractor, MELCO, take this very seriously. IDEFIX is the start of our next phase, where we will integrate all the spacecraft components including the many mission instruments that have each been developed independently and in parallel. Then we will finally see the total spacecraft system!”

JAXA also cooperated with CNES and DLR during the successful Hayabusa2 asteroid sample return mission which carried the CNES/DLR co-developed small lander “MASCOT”, and will renew that collaboration again as we head together towards a successful MMX mission.

More Information:

JAXA/DLR/CNES sign the trilateral Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) for rover activities within the MMX mission

DLR: Martian Moons eXploration (external link)