Cannes, France, 23-1-2014 — /EuropaWire/ — Rosetta, the European Space Agency probe that was launched towards the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on March 2, 2004, has been “woken up” after being placed into deep space hibernation on June 8, 2011. In the nearly ten years since launch, Rosetta, designed and built by the business line Space Systems (formerly Astrium) of Airbus Defence and Space as prime contractor, has followed a long interplanetary trajectory that took it beyond Jupiter’s orbit.
Thales Alenia Space Italy is a major contributor to the Rosetta mission, being responsible for the spacecraft assembly, integration and testing (AIT), as well as the launch campaign, including responsibility for defining and procuring the mechanical and electrical ground support equipment. Thales Alenia Space also built the satellite’s special S-band and X-band digital transponder, used for communications with Earth.
Rosetta’s objective is a “close encounter” with the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, an oblong celestial object measuring about 2 x 4 kilometers, during one of its periodic visits to the innermost part of our solar system. Rosetta is the first mission designed for the on-site study of a comet’s nucleus.
These scientific goals will start to be realized in mid-2014, based on detailed observations by the main part of the spacecraft, the Rosetta Orbiter, that will be placed into orbit around the comet for several months, as it approaches the Sun. It will also release a small lander, recently named “Philae”, that will land on the surface of the frozen nucleus.
Rosetta’s long, arduous journey began with its launch from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana in 2004, and will end only in 2015. In the interim, it picked up the required speed to carry out its mission by making three gravitational flybys of Earth and one of Mars, and it also flew by the asteroids Steins (2008) and Lutetia (2010) for a closer look.
The spacecraft’s scientific instruments will enable it to study the surface of the comet, its composition and temperature distribution, as well as analyze the gases and dust emitted from the nucleus and its interaction with the solar wind. The Italian space agency ASI coordinated the country’s contribution to Rosetta’s scientific instruments, in particular the VIRTIS optical and infrared spectrometer and the GIADA dust analyzer.
About Thales Alenia Space
The European leader in satellite systems and a major player in orbital infrastructures, Thales Alenia Space is a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Finmeccanica (33%). Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio embody the two groups’ “Space Alliance”. Thales Alenia Space sets the global standard in solutions for space telecommunications, radar and optical Earth observation, defense and security, navigation and science. With consolidated revenues of 2.1 billion euros in 2012, Thales Alenia Space has 7,500 employees in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium and United States
Thales Alenia Space press contacts
Sandrine Bielecki – Tel: +33 (0)4 92 92 70 94
Tarik Lahlou – Tel: +33 (0)4 92 92 68 45
Tiziana Ebano – Tel: +39 06 41 51 25 74