Tag Archives: orbit

Trace Gas Orbiter entering orbit around Mars on 19 October 2016 Credit: ESA/ATG medialab
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Burn baby, burn! The technology of the Mars Orbit Inser...

This post was contributed by Thomas Ormston, a spacecraft operations engineer here at ESOC, and highlights the science, the engineering, the technology and the incredible teamwork involved in getting ExoMars/TGO captured into orbit around another planet. The...

LISA Pathfinder's Ian Harrison Credit: ESA/K. Siewert - CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
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LISA Pathfinder orbit manoeuvres: so far, so good!

Three done, three to go! These updates were sent in by LISA Pathfinder Spacecraft Operations Manager Ian Harrison Monday evening and this morning, reporting on the results of the Nos. 2 and 3 apogee-raising engine burns (referred...

This image was created using data from the Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescopes on NASA's twin Van Allen Probes. It shows the emergence of a new third transient radiation belt. The new belt is seen as the middle orange and red arc of the three seen on each side of the Earth. Image Credit: APL, NASA

Getting to where we want to go: LISA Pathfinder’s...

To travel to SEL1, LISA Pathfinder must raise its apogee to be near the 1.5-million-km point and to do so the spacecraft will perform a sequence of 'apogee raising manoeuvres' providing a velocity increment of more than...

ESOC Navigation Support Office Credit: ESA/J. Mai

Knowing where Galileo flies

On 19 March, ESA's Navigation Support Office generated the first 'Precise Orbit Determination' (POD) for a Full Operational Capability (FOC) Galileo satellite.

Venus Express arrives at Venus

Venus Express will raise orbit and keep going

Between 23-30 November, the operations team at ESOC will conduct manoeuvres to raise the pericentre of the Venus Express (VEX) orbit again, in an effort to keep the spacecraft in productive orbit around Venus.

VEX orbit video
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Video from space: Orbiting with Venus Express

The movie below is based on actual images snapped by the Venus Monitoring Camera over a period of 18 hours during one of the spacecraft’s 24-hour orbits around the planet, 7–8 January 2012. It was compiled using...

… 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

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...

Lost – then found – in space

On 17 June 2013, ESA’s Herschel spacecraft burned up all of its remaining fuel. The mission ended a few minutes later, when the last command was sent to deactivate the systems forever. There was not enough time for the ground station to take measurements of the final orbit. Astronomers from three observatories – Haleakala-Faulkes Telescope North (Hawaii), Kitt Peak (U.S.A.) and Siding Spring-Faulkes Telescope South (Australia) – observed the fading reflections from Herschel between 26 June and 1 July. Based on these observations, the flight dynamics experts at ESOC determined and predicted Herschel’s final orbit around our Sun. In 14 years, on 13 October 2027, Herschel will pass by its home planet. It...

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...

Finding ATV in the sky

Updated 1530CEST 4 June 2013 The flight control team at the joint ESA/CNES ATV Control Centre will assume control of the mission once Albert Einstein separates from the final stage of the Ariane 5 launcher on 5 June. From that point on, it will be in free-flight orbit under ATV-CC control until Rendezvous with the ISS, set for 15 June. Below, you can access the (estimated) TLE – the ‘Two-Line Element’ data – that describes the orbit ATV is expected to be on once separation occurs.   This can be used by amateur astronomers, astro-photographers and anyone else to know where to look if you wish to spot ATV in the sky!...

The best spot for space astronomy

Editor’s note: Today’s post was contributed by Markus Landgraf from the Mission Analysis Section at ESA’s ESOC establishment, Darmstadt, Germany. It highlights the detailed assessment of options, scientific and practical factors that must be taken into account before any mission can be flown. If we are to explore not only our solar system, but also the cosmos in more general, we have to rely on telescopes to collect starlight. For most applications this is most efficiently done outside the Earth’s atmosphere and thus follows the need for installation and operation of space telescopes. Globally speaking Europe leads astronomy research, not only due to our history, but also due to the missions currently...