Monthly Archives: December 2013


#FirstVideo: Gaia seen in space

Last night, Nick James, based in the UK, captured some fantastic views of Gaia as it departed Earth en route to L2, about 1.5 million km away from Earth opposite the Sun. The video acquired at about 01:00 GMT this morning. (Editor’s note: Several other very good images have just been shared and we’ll get them posted as soon as possible.) Well done, Nick! And thanks for sharing! Nick wrote: Time lapse movie of the Gaia spacecraft taken using a C11 telescope and an ST9XE CCD camera. Each frame is a 5-second exposure and the animation is played at 25 fps. At the time the images were taken, Gaia was around 158...

Gaia liftoff – watch replay highlights

Watch the replay highlights of today’s webcast of ESA’s billion-star surveyor Gaia launching into space. Lift off took place at 09:12 GMT / 10:12 CET this morning. This video includes highlights of the launch webcast including lift-off from Kourou, the Soyuz mission, separation of Gaia and the successful entry into orbit. Like to see the entire webcast replay? Access the full video in the ESA website.

Image showing the signal level at ESA's Perth tracking station, now in contact with Gaia. Credit: ESA

AOS: Acquisition of signal at ESOC confirmed

What the Gaia mission operations team at ESOC have waited to see! The bottom image shows the tracking station signal being received from ESA’s 15m Perth station, Australia; loud and clear. ESA is now in contact with...

ESOC Green for launch

A quick update from ESOC, ESA’s mission control centre for Gaia: Winds (high-altitude), weather and solar activity are all green for launch ESA’s Estrack ground station network reports all stations involved GO for launch Stations at Perth,...


Watch Gaia launch live

Watch ESA’s billion-star surveyor Gaia launch into space on 19 December at 09:12:19 GMT (10:12:19 CET). Streaming starts at 08:50 GMT (09:50 CET). Scroll below for regular blog updates today

Video report from Kourou on L-1

ESA’s Gaia mission is set for lift off from Kourou to produce an unprecedented 3D map of our Galaxy by mapping, with exquisite precision, the position and motion of a billion stars. Lift off is currently scheduled for 10:12 CET, 19 December 2013, on top of a Soyuz launcher from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou. This highlight video provides background scenes from Kourou, showing final integration of the launcher, installation of the aerodynamic fairing, mating of the upper composite to the launcher and roll out to the launch pad. It also includes statements by Giuseppe Sarri, ESA’s Gaia Project Manager, and Timo Prusti, ESA’s Gaia Project Scientist.

Gaia lift-off timeline

Find below a detailed timeline for the launch of Gaia on 19 December 2013. See notes for abbreviations. The usual disclaimer applies: This is a real-time activity and all times are subject to change. Follow launch live via ESA TV, starting 08:50 GMT (09:50 CET). See also some additional post-separation timeline events listed in Gaia liftoff timeline in ESA web. AIT – The Astrium Integration Team/Suupport Team in Kourou, working on behalf of the ESA Gaia Project Office DMS – Soyuz Mission Director on console at Kourou S/C – Spacecraft (= Gaia) MET – Mission elapsed time (minue before H0, positive after) MET UTC Actor Activity -14:00:00 19:12:19 ESOC B-Team...

Fabulous Gaia Twitter art

Very well done and thanks from everyone at ESA for this excellent Twitter art to send off Gaia! Via @kpcuk

Installation on the launch adapter

Following the filling of the tanks, the Gaia satellite enters the Combined Operations Phase: the “COP”. This involves all the different stages by which the satellite is put on to the launcher, the launcher is put on the launch pad, and the launch itself. All of the activities on the satellite are carried out at this time according to a schedule established by Arianespace, who also manage all of the active participants of this combined phase: Astrium as the prime contractors of the satellite, Roscosmos for the Russian launcher, RUAG for the payload adapter and the clamp band, Arianespace or its subcontractors for the electrical testing of the launcher, and CNES for...

A secretary in the jungle

If you are anticipating a technical blog – stop reading this now, as I am surely the least technical person in the Gaia Project Team. Let me introduce myself, I am Helma, the Gaia project secretary. I’ve been on the project since day one, which is about ten years ago, so I sometimes joke about Gaia being my first baby (I’ve had two actual babies in the meantime). When people ask me why I have to go French Guiana for months I tell them ‘to support our Launch Campaign’. Then I get ‘Yes but what do you actually do?’ Besides the normal work like documentation, handling timesheets, leave requests, and a million...

Gaia ready for fuelling

Towards the end of November, the first part of the Gaia launch preparation was complete: the satellite was 90% ready, with its tanks pressurised. The second part begins with filling the tanks with the appropriate propellants. This phase is particularly dangerous because the propellants are toxic, and there is also a risk of explosion, so it is carried out in a dedicated building. That’s why Gaia had to move from building S1B in the payload preparation complex (EPCU), where it has been since the start of the campaign, to the S5 building to be fuelled. How do you move Gaia from one building to another? Gaia, complete with its sunshield, could not...