Tag Archives: gaia

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Why we love space

OK – we agree it’s not exactly the same as other, more famous ‘GO/NOGO’ roll calls – but we still think this is pretty cool! This is the pre-launch GO/NOGO roll call in the Main Control Room at ESOC, 13 December 2013. The roll call was conducted by Flight Director Andreas Rudolph just prior to the Centre declaring itself ready to support Gaia liftoff, which took place at 09:12GMT / 10:12 CET.

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Perth tracking station

Shortly after a powerful Soyuz launcher lofts Gaia, ESA’s new star mapper, into space on Thursday, teams on the ground will establish initial radio contact. Even then, tension will run high in ESA’s mission control as Gaia must still perform a critical automatic sequence. Before separation from the Fregat upper stage, Gaia will ‘phone home’, sending a first radio signal to ESA’s Australian Perth ground station to inform controllers of its immediate health status. We dug up some nice background footage showing day-to-day operations at Perth station, courtesy of the Estrack engineering team at ESOC. Enjoy! More information: Mission control ready for Gaia launch

Gaia lift-off time

Launching a satellite seems fairly simple: put it onto a rocket and launch it into space. Of course it’s a bit more complicated than this and some missions are more complex than others. In the case of Gaia we have to launch at a very specific time each day. This lift-off time is determined by the Libration Point Mission Analysis Group of ESOC. In this blog entry I’ll explain why this launch time is so constrained and how we determine the exact lift-off time. There are three major factors that contribute to this launch: – The destination of Gaia, the Sun-Earth libration point, or Lagrange point 2 – The programming of the...

Gaia goes to L2 – what’s an “ell-two&...

Just like observatories on Earth, space observatories like Gaia like it quiet and dark. In space “quiet and dark” means far away from Earth. At large distances from Earth, the motion of spacecraft are no longer controlled only by the gravity of Earth, but also by other gravitational sources – most prominently by the Sun. The orbital motion of Earth around the Sun also influences the motion of spacecraft. The good thing about these forces – if you are a spacecraft – is that in five locations, all these forces balance out to create a stable location from which to study the wider Universe. These points are called the “Lagrange points”, or...

Charting the heavens with Gaia

Time is a child of the stars When Duke William IV of Hesse-Kassel – “William the Wise” – thought how to spend his spare time, he decided to follow his passion for the stars: he wanted to know exactly where the stars are in the night sky and whether they move and if so by how much. At the time – we are talking the 1580s here  – it was well known from ancient times as well as from the then-young field of astronomy that most species of light in the night sky are ‘fixed stars’. Despite their name, fixed stars do move across he sky, only this is a collective motion caused by the...