Today at 08:17 CET (07:17 GMT), the European Space Agency (ESA) lauched the 'Rosetta' cometary probe. It is the world's first probe designed to
enter orbit around a comet's nucleus and release a lander onto its surface.
The mission' target is the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and it should reach it by the year 2014.
For over a year it will conduct a thorough study of this remnant of the primitive nebula which gave birth to our Solar System about 5 billion years
Rosetta's mission began at 08:17 CET (07:17 GMT) on 2 March when a European Ariane 5 launch vehicle lifted off from the Guiana Space Centre,
Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The launcher successfully placed its upper stage and payload into an eccentric coast orbit (200 x 4000
km). About two hours later, at 10:14 CET (09:14 GMT), the upper stage ignited its own engine to reach an escape velocity in order to leave the
Earth's gravity field and enter heliocentric orbit. The Rosetta probe was released 18 minutes later.
'After the recent success of Mars Express, Europe is now heading to deep space with another fantastic mission. We will have to be patient, as the
rendezvous with the comet will not take place until ten years from now, but I think it's worth the wait' said ESA's Director General Jean-Jacques
Dordain witnessing the launch from Kourou.
ESA's Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, has established contact with the probe as it flies away from Earth at a relative speed of about
3.4 km/s. ESOC will be in charge of Rosetta operations and orbit determination throughout the mission. During the next eight months, the spacecraft's
onboard systems will be checked and its science payload will be commissioned. Then, it will be placed into hibernation mode for most of the ten years
of its journey through the Solar System.
A 10-year odyssey
Rosetta will be reactivated for planetary flybys, which will be used to modify its trajectory through gravity assist manoeuvres, or asteroid flybys,
observation of asteroids being one of the mission's secondary objectives.
The first planetary encounter will be in March 2005, as Rosetta flies by the Earth for the first time. The gravity assist will boost Rosetta into an
orbit that will take it to Mars two years later.
During its close encounter with Mars in February 2007, Rosetta will approach to a distance of about 200 km and conduct science observations. This
Martian flyby will be followed by another Earth flyby in November the same year. Both planetary encounters will increase the probe's orbital energy
and boost it well into the asteroid belt.
A third and last flyby of the Earth in November 2009 will send Rosetta toward the orbit of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Then, by mid-2011, when it is about 800 million km from the Sun, Rosetta will ignite its main engine for a major deep-space manoeuvre that will place
it onto an interception trajectory with the comet, which will take nearly three years to be reached.
Rosetta will be reactivated for good in January 2014, as it enters a six-month approach phase, closing in slowly on the nucleus of comet
Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The comet will then still be far from the Sun and its nucleus should be dormant.
Read the entire story
AboveTopSecret.com 'Space 2015' Forum
[Edited on 2-3-2004 by Zion Mainframe]