Tag Archives: ESOC

On Time, On Target? The Rosetta Mission

The next few hours or so will be interesting and hopefully history-making.  The European Space Agency (ESA) team has come so far with the Rosetta mission. If you don’t know what Rosetta is, in short: the Europeans have sent a spacecraft, Rosetta, to successfully intercept a comet over 400,000,000 km (about 250,000,000 miles) from Earth, and plan to land a very small probe, named Philae, on it (you can read some detail about the probe, here).

I hope their planning comes to full, successful, fruition. On 12 Nov, at 1602 UTC, the Philae lander will have hopefully made contact with Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, and securely harpooned itself to the comet’s surface. The lander will have already detached from the Rosetta spacecraft about 7 hours (around 0903 UTC) earlier and slowly made its way to the comet during that time.

So, at the risk of putting up a few more videos up on this site for a couple days in a row now, here’s one that ESA put out about two weeks ago. It’s a bit weird, kind of cool, and definitely highlights ESA’s marketing budget. It’s fun, nonetheless, and hopefully you haven’t seen it yet. It might be inspirational:

Then, if you want to watch the Rosetta operations team as they command and wait to see what happens with Philae and Rosetta as it’s all happening, go to this link: http://new.livestream.com/esa/cometlanding

There will be a lot of hurrying up and waiting, since radio communications take awhile between spacecraft and ground stations. If you can’t watch the video, but still want to follow along with the actions of the folks at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), try following them on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/ESA_Rosetta

I wish them the best of luck–although I know they’ve worked hard enough to not just rely on that! As space operators everywhere do.



The ESA’s Rosetta Satellite: The Sleeper Awakes

On 20 January, 2014, a European Space Agency (ESA) comet-chasing satellite woke up for work.  According to this MSN.com article, the satellite, named Rosetta, was in hibernation for 31 months.  The ESA’s Rosetta satellite is waking up to meet with a certain comet in May 2014.  The “OK, I’m awake” signal was relayed to the European Space Operations Center (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.  The ground station that first received the signal and then relayed it to the ESOC was the Goldstone Observatory in the Mojave Desert in California.

Launched in 2004, Rosetta then conducted two flybys of Earth, and one flyby of Mars and 2867 Steins (an asteroid).  It went into deep space hibernation in 2011, scheduled to wake up 31 months later.  Rosetta will rendezvous with a comet named Churyumov-Gerasimenko in May 2014.  Upon making the rendezvous, the satellite will release a lander, named Philae, which will land on the comet.  The lander has at least nine different kinds of sensors for data gathering.  Philae’s sensors, plus the 12 others on Rosetta (details here), will help ESA scientists make the most comprehensive study of a comet yet.

Rosetta is named after the Rosetta Stone and is hoped to provide the key to interpreting how the Solar System looked before planets formed.  Philae is the island on which Rosetta’s “decryption key” was found.  See what ESA did?

If you are curious, you can see Rosetta’s route—where it’s been and where it’s going.  Just go to this ESA link and watch it unfold before your eyes.  It will help you understand how Rosetta is using the planets to help change direction and speed.  It will also show you how this clever use eventually helps it match, more or less, the comet’s highly elliptical orbit.  It’s an interactive page, so don’t forget to zoom out and tilt, etc.