Europe's first ever Mars rover - built in Stevenage - has been declared ready for launch in September, after the successful completion of rigorous testing.

The European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover, built at Airbus Defence and Space in Gunnels Wood Road, will be the first of its kind to drill up to two metres below the surface of Mars and determine if evidence of life is buried underground.

Stevenage Airbus teams have spent more than 10 years designing, developing and assembling the rover, named Rosalind Franklin, which is due to launch in September and land on the Red Planet in June 2023.

Tests have included shaking the rover on a vibration table to ensure it can survive the intense juddering as a rocket carries it into space, and practising driving the rover off its landing platform, as well as performing electrical and thermal testing.

With only a short launch window – 10 days every two years – in which Mars can be reached from Earth, the original 2020 launch date was delayed for two years after time ran out to complete the tests.

The European Space Agency says all the rover's instruments are now go for flight, with some minor tuning left to complete this month.

Pietro Baglioni, ESA’s ExoMars rover team leader, said: “The rover is ready and, together with the recent drop test success for the parachutes, we are positive to be in time for the September launch date."

The rover now sits in an ultra-clean room at the Thales Alenia Space premises in Turin, Italy. Following a final review at the end of March, all the components of the spacecraft – rover, descent module, landing platform and carrier – will move to the launch site in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, to prepare for lift-off.

Pietro said: “Just before that last trip on Earth, we will upload the final version of the software that will allow the rover to scout Mars autonomously."

Andrea Merlo, ExoMars head of robotics from Thales Alenia Space, said: “Once the six wheels hit the martian surface, it will be the beginning of the story for this rover on Mars. We feel ready and are really looking forward to the real mission."