Swarm on the launchpad

November 19, 2013
The upper composite, which holds the Swarm assembly satellite, is hoisted to the top of the service tower and then onto the lower stages of the Rockot launcher, on 18 November, 2013. ESA’s Swarm mission is ready for launch on a Russian Rockot on 22 November at 12:02 GMT (13:02 CET), from the Plesetsk cosmodrome. The three-satellite Swarm mission aims to unravel one of the most mysterious aspects of our planet: the magnetic field. Swarm is ESA’s fourth Earth Explorer mission, following GOCE, SMOS and CryoSat. Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja, 2013

Preparations for Friday's launch of ESA's magnetic explorer have reached an important milestone – the constellation is now in the Plesetsk launch tower.

The team in northern Russia said farewell to the three Swarm satellites at the weekend as they sealed them from view within the rocket's fairing, which protects them from the rigours of .

This marks the culmination of two months of work testing and preparing the Swarm for launch at the cosmodrome.

The fairing half-shells will open almost three minutes after launch. Once the second stage of the Rockot launcher has separated a few minutes later, the satellites will be taken into orbit by the Breeze-KM .

Just over 90 minutes after launch and at an altitude of 490 km, Breeze will release the trio simultaneously into orbit around Earth.

Today, in a rather wintery setting, the assembly, wrapped in thermal padding, was rolled out to the and hoisted to the top of the service tower. It was then lowered onto the lower stages of the Rockot vehicle.

The next steps on the road to launch involve a 'dress rehearsal' of the launch procedure and fuelling of the rocket for launch on 22 November at 12:02 GMT (13:02 CET).

Swarm satellite assembly mated to the Breeze Upper Stage sealed inside the Rockot fairing, which forms the Upper Composite, at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia, 16 November, 2013. Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja, 2013

For four years, Swarm will study the mysteries of Earth's , its interactions with the solar wind and its links to global change.

The five new-generation sensors on each satellite and carefully calculated orbits will provide the information needed to untangle the different sources that make up the magnetic field and electric currents around Earth.

The data will be used, for example, to build global models of the field generated by our planet's core and crust.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Since the constellation was shipped to the Plesetsk Comodrome in September, the satellites have been through an intense series of tests to make sure they are ready for launch. They were also carefully fitted to rocket's launch adapter.

This tailor-made part of the upper stage holds them in place within the fairing during the climb to space. Critically, it allows the three to be released simultaneously into orbit.

Explore further: GOCE gravity satellite moves to launch pad

Related Stories

GOCE gravity satellite moves to launch pad

March 11, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- With liftoff just five days away, ESA's GOCE spacecraft - encased in the protective half-shells of the launcher fairing - has been transported from the cleanroom and installed in the launch tower at the Plesetsk ...

SMOS and Proba-2 satellites installed in launch tower

October 28, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- In readiness for launch on 2 November, ESA’s SMOS and Proba-2 satellites - encapsulated in the launcher fairing - have been transported from the cleanroom and installed in the launch tower at the Plesetsk ...

Last look at weather satellite

September 12, 2012

(Phys.org)—As preparations for the launch of Europe's latest weather satellite continue on track, the team in Kazakhstan has said farewell to MetOp-B as it was sealed in the Soyuz rocket fairing. Liftoff is set for 16:28 ...

Preparing to launch Swarm

September 20, 2013

With the launch of ESA's Swarm trio set for 14 November, the first satellite has arrived safely at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia. This new mission will unravel one of the most mysterious aspects of our planet: the magnetic ...

Swarm launch postponed

October 31, 2013

The launch of ESA's magnetic field mission from Plesetsk, Russia, has been postponed by about a week.

Satellites packed like sardines

November 11, 2013

(Phys.org) —The complex task of placing all three Swarm satellites on their launch adapter is complete. This is another significant milestone in preparing ESA's latest Earth observation mission for liftoff, which is now ...

Recommended for you

New Horizons team selects potential Kuiper Belt flyby target

August 29, 2015

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits ...

Ceres image: The lonely mountain

August 25, 2015

NASA's Dawn spacecraft spotted this tall, conical mountain on Ceres from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers).

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.