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