March launch planned for GOCE gravity mission (Video)

February 4, 2009
The GOCE satellite undergoing testing at the Russian Plesetsk Cosmodrome in August 2008. Credits: ESA

(PhysOrg.com) -- ESA is now gearing up to return to Russia to oversee preparations for the launch of its GOCE satellite - now envisaged for launch on 16 March 2009. This follows implementation of the corrective measures after the anomaly with the Rockot launcher that delayed the launch of GOCE by Eurockot Launch Services last October.

An advance party from ESA has just arrived at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia to arrange logistical matters while the team of engineers will arrive in mid-February.

The five metre-long GOCE (Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer) satellite has been in storage at the launch site since last October. Once the team of ESA and Thales Alenia Space engineers arrive, work will begin preparing the satellite for launch. As prime contractor, Thales Alenia Space has led an all-European consortium of over 40 companies to build the GOCE satellite.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Over its lifetime of about 20 months, GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer) will map global variations in the gravity field with extreme detail and provide a unique model of the geoid, which is crucial for understanding ocean circulation, sea-level change and ice dynamics - all of which are affected by climate change. Credits: ESA - AOES Medialab

ESA's GOCE Project Manager Danilo Muzi commented that, "The team are really eager to resume the launch campaign and to finish the job interrupted last autumn. The launch in a few weeks time will be the deserved reward for all their efforts."

GOCE is the first in a series of Earth observation satellites called Earth Explorers. These small missions are developed in direct response to a range of Earth-science issues identified by the scientific community whilst demonstrating new technology in space. GOCE certainly lives up to this - its sleek high-tech design embodying many firsts in terms of design and use of new technology to map the Earth's gravity field as never before.

The satellite has been designed to orbit just 250 km above the surface of the Earth - its unusual aerodynamic shape cutting through of what remains of the atmosphere. This low-orbiting satellite is the first mission to employ the concept of gradiometry in space. The concept involves the measurement of acceleration differences over short distances between an ensemble of proof masses inside the spacecraft that respond to tiny variations in the 'gravitational tug' of the Earth as it travels along its orbital path.

The data acquired by GOCE will bring about a whole new level of understanding of one of the Earth most fundamental forces of nature. Improved knowledge of the gravity field is one of the most important building blocks for understanding how the Earth works. Mapping the gravity field with unprecedented accuracy, the GOCE mission will realise a broad range of fascinating new possibilities for the fields of oceanography, solid Earth physics, geodesy and sea-level research - significantly contributing to our understanding of climate change.

Provided by European Space Agency

Explore further: Galaxy survey to probe why the universe is accelerating

Related Stories

Galaxy survey to probe why the universe is accelerating

June 30, 2015

We know that our universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, but what causes this growth remains a mystery. The most likely explanation is that a strange force dubbed "dark energy" is driving it. Now a new astronomical ...

What is the biggest planet in the solar system?

June 25, 2015

Ever since the invention of the telescope four hundred years ago, astronomers have been fascinated by the gas giant of Jupiter. Between it's constant, swirling clouds, its many, many moons, and its Giant Red Spot, there are ...

Rosetta and Philae at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

June 22, 2015

Rosetta has been exploring comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko since summer 2014. In November 2014, the Philae lander landed on the surface of the comet. The first measurements by the scientific instruments allow conclusions ...

Automated ion analyzer for space missions

June 18, 2015

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is scheduled to launch its Eu:CROPIS research satellite into orbit in early 2017. Its purpose is to test a biological life-support system for future human space missions. The satellite's ...

Will we ever colonize Mars?

June 1, 2015

Mars. It's a pretty unforgiving place. On this dry, dessicated world, the average surface temperature is -55 °C (-67 °F). And at the poles, temperatures can reach as low as -153 °C (243 °F). Much of that has to do with ...

Recommended for you

Dense star clusters shown to be binary black hole factories

July 29, 2015

The coalescence of two black holes—a very violent and exotic event—is one of the most sought-after observations of modern astronomy. But, as these mergers emit no light of any kind, finding such elusive events has been ...

Image: Hubble sees a dying star's final moments

July 31, 2015

A dying star's final moments are captured in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The death throes of this star may only last mere moments on a cosmological timescale, but this star's demise is still quite ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.