The final command placing ESA’s Rosetta comet-chaser into deep-space hibernation has been sent. With virtually all systems shut down, the probe will now coast for 31 months until waking up in 2014 for arrival at its comet destination.
This dramatic event marks the end of the hugely successful first phase of Rosetta’s ten-year cruise and the start of a long, dark hibernation during which all instruments and almost all control systems will be silent.
The countdown is on for the European Space Agency’s next rocket launch and New Zealand is playing its part in the international space programme.
Top scientists from the European Space Agency are in New Zealand to monitor tracking of the Johannes Kepler unmanned spacecraft from Awarua Station, near Invercargill, when it launches tomorrow.
The new spacecraft, known as an automated transfer vehicle, will carry essential supplies to the International Space Station and will launch from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana in South America.
Representing the third of five back-to-back launches to the International Space Station in a 2-month period, the European Space Agency stands ready to the launch the ATV-2 (Automated Transfer Vehicle 2) spacecraft on a multi-month mission to deliver thousands of pounds of supplies to the leading orbital outpost. The mission will also hold the distinction of being flown to orbit on the 200th Ariane rocket launch, the 56th launch for the workhorse Ariane 5 variant.
Targeting launch at 2208 GMT (1708 EST), the ATV-2, named after famous German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler, will be launched on the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) veteran workhorse Ariane 5 rocket.