Gaia's instruments installed and ready for testing

September 18, 2012
Fully integrated Gaia payload module with nearly all of the multilayer insulation fabric installed. Nearest to the camera, the rear of one of the primary mirrors and one of the tertiary mirrors are visible. Beneath the tertiary (smaller) mirror, the Radial Velocity Spectrometer can be seen. To the right is the Focal Plane Assembly with its charge-coupled device sensors (blue). The focal plane array, with a total of almost a billion pixels, is the largest ever developed. The integration was carried out at Astrium, Toulouse. Credit: Astrium SAS

(—The payload module of ESA's billion-star surveyor Gaia is integrated and ready for the next stage of rigorous testing it must undergo before launch next year.
Once in space, Gaia will make precise measurements of the positions and motions of a billion stars. The information will be used to create a 3D map of stars in our home Galaxy, the Milky Way, revealing information about its composition, formation and evolution.

This latest image shows the payload module in the Astrium cleanroom in Toulouse, France.

The module is covered in grey and silver multilayer insulation fabric that protects the spacecraft's optics and mirrors from the of space.

Nearest to the camera, the rear of one of Gaia's main telescope mirrors and one of the tertiary mirrors are visible. The second main mirror is just visible towards the back left of the image.

The blue panel seen below and to the right of the image is the Focal Plane Assembly with its charge-coupled device sensors.

This focal plane array will carry the largest digital camera ever built, with nearly a billion pixels.

The integration process included the Radial Velocity Spectrometer (seen below the smaller mirror), which will help to measure the motions of stars, and the Basic Angle Monitor, which will ensure that the separation angle between the two telescopes is monitored in order to make precise distance measurements of stars. All of the optical components were also carefully aligned.

The will be mated to the service module, which houses units that provide resources such as thermal control, propulsion, communication, and attitude and orbit control, at the beginning of next year.

Gaia will be launched from Europe's Spaceport in at the end of 2013.  

Explore further: Herschel's heart and brain mated

Related Stories

Herschel's heart and brain mated

September 19, 2007

Herschel, Europe’s infrared space observatory is being presented to the media today in a joint press event by ESA and Astrium in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Two of the satellite’s most fundamental modules, its ‘heart’ ...

Eye of Gaia: Billion-pixel camera to map Milky Way

July 6, 2011

The largest digital camera ever built for a space mission has been painstakingly mosaicked together from 106 separate electronic detectors. The resulting "billion-pixel array" will serve as the super-sensitive 'eye' of ESA's ...

GAIA - A billion eyes on the skies

October 21, 2011

It’s name is GAIA and it’s the perhaps the most ambitious project which has ever faced the European Space Agency. Scheduled to launch in 2013, this new breed of space telescope will stately progress to Lagrange ...

Gaia spreads its wings

December 8, 2011

( -- ESA’s Gaia star-mapper has passed a critical test ahead of its launch in 2013: the spacecraft’s sunshield has been deployed for the first time.

Gaia checks out of antenna testing

July 3, 2012

( -- Entombed by the distinctive foam pyramids typical of test chambers, the main antenna of the Gaia billion-star surveyor has been put through its paces ahead of launch next year.

Recommended for you

How to prepare for Mars? NASA consults Navy sub force

October 5, 2015

As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it's tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine ...

Researchers find a new way to weigh a star

October 5, 2015

Researchers from the University of Southampton have developed a new method for measuring the mass of pulsars – highly magnetised rotating neutron stars formed from the remains of massive stars after they explode into supernovae.

Moon Express, Rocket Lab set for 2017 mission plan

October 5, 2015

In 2017 a private moon landing could make news. If the mission is successful, said GeekWire, Moon Express could become the first privately backed venture to achieve a soft lunar landing.


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.