Author Archives: Daniel

Daniel Scuka is Senior Editor for Spacecraft Operations at ESOC, ESA's European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany.

… and we got there!

ESA’s billion-star surveyor Gaia is now in its operational orbit around a gravitationally stable virtual point in space called ‘L2’, 1.5 million km from Earth. Via ESA web

Orbits of satellites like Gaia or the James Webb Space Telescope at the L2 Lagrange point. Credit: ESA

The flight dynamics expertise behind Gaia’s criti...

Today is a big day for the flight dynamics experts who determine and predict trajectories, prepare orbit manoeuvres and determine satellite attitudes. At around 19:58 CET this evening, five of Gaia’s eight thrusters will be commanded to...


#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...

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

Update from the Gaia Operations team

There’s a detailed technical backgrounder today over at ESA’s Rocket Science blog reporting on the Gaia mission operations testing campaign. It was written by the Spacecraft Operations Manager, Dave Milligan, and covers what’s happening at ESA’s ESOC Operations Centre as the mission gets closer to lift off. Well worth a read! Access full report