Swarm goes into commissioning
Following Friday’s successful launch, the next critical milestone has been reached – the launch and early orbit phase, LEOP, is complete and the mission is now being commissioned.
Photo LEOP team. (ESA)
Immediately following separation, the three satellites started transmitting their first signals to Earth. As expected, signals from the first two Swarm satellites came 91 minutes after launch, followed by the third at the 95-minute mark. This signified the start of the critical launch and early orbit phase (LEOP).
Over the weekend, ground controllers at ESA’s Space Operations Centre in Germany, shepherded the three satellites through multiple technical checks, ensuring that all systems were functioning as expected.
This activity culminated with the deployment of the boom, setting the three satellites in fine pointing mode and synchronising the on-board time with UTC time.
Oscillation of each boom settling in relative time. (DTU)
Random errors – or ‘noise level’ – were much lower than expected.
The deployment of the satellites’ 4-m long booms came around midnight on Friday. The booms had been folded into the rocket fairing during launch. They carry instruments essential to the mission’s scientific success.
The ‘noise level’ for the vector field magnetometers is very small, less than 35pT rms. (DTU)
The first science data collected by the vector field magnetometer during boom deployment indicates the instrument’s signal-to-noise ratio is better than expected.
LEOP was formally declared complete on Sunday evening at 19:30 UT (20:30 CET), and the mission has now entered the commissioning phase, which will last around three months.
Clip showing the start of ESA's Swarm mission. Lift off took place at 13:22 CET, 22 November, 2013, from Plesetsk, Russia.
Liftoff for Swarm!
Launched on schedule at 13:02 from Plesetsk. Good luck for the rest of the journey into orbit!
Swarm launch (ESA)
Access our live Swarm launch webcast starting at 11:45 CET via http://spaceinvideos.esa.int/esalive
Tracking stations ready for Swarm launch
Live check via voice loop from the Main Control Room at ESOC. GOM Sam Peterson is speaking with tracking stations at Troll, Svalbard and Kiruna. ESA's Swarm satellites set for lift off in less than 3 hours.
Media coming to ESOC for Swarm launch
Over 40 local and international media are expected at ESOC in Darmstadt today to cover Swarm launch. Jonathan Amos of the BBC is one of them. (Now checking if sr. management approves of his fabulous hashtag '#spacerats' – Ed.)
And then later - after a successful launch!
In anticipation of a successful launch today – of course you need cake!
Swarm cake from Victoria Anne Ridley and Ciaran Beggan
Victoria Anne Ridley (left) and Dr Ciaran Beggan (right), geomagnetic field researchers from the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh, UK, celebrate today’s Swarm launch with a cake.
Swarm in sponge! from Victoria Anne Ridley and Ciaran Beggan
Launch teams at ESOC ready to go to space
The Swarm launch team at ESOC upon completing the final pre-launch briefing on 21 November 2013. Credit: ESA/J. Mai
Rockot launcher fully fuelled
News just in 18:30 (CET): the Rockot launcher is now fully fuelled - ready and waiting to take the three Swarm satellites into orbit.
L-1: Update from Plesetsk
ESA’s Swarm mission to study the Earth’s magnetic field is on its launch pad!
Lift off is currently scheduled at 13:02 CET, 22 November 2013, on top of a Rockot launcher from Plesetsk in Northern Russia.
This video report from Plesetsk was recorded on 21 November and during the launch preparation campaign. It shows teams working on the Swarm satellites to integrate them together with the Breeze-KM upper stage and the protective aerodynamic fairing. It includes footage of the satellites' roll-out to the launch pad on 18 November and hoisting to the top of the Rockot launcher.
ESA's Swam Launch Campaign Manager Bruno Bergaglio provides a report from the launch pad, and the video ends with snowy November views of the town of Mirny, located just a few kilometres from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.
Swarm is a constellation of three satellites flying in formation to measure the magnetic field from the centre of the Earth to the outermost reaches of the magnetosphere – the protective bubble that shields us from dangerous solar particles and radiation.