Gaia star mapper to lift off from Europe's Spaceport on a Soyuz launcher

Dec 16, 2009
Gaia will be the most accurate optical astronomy satellite ever built so far. Due for launch in 2011, it will continuously scan the sky for at least five years from a point in space known as the second Lagrangian point (or L2), located at about 1.6 million kilometres away from the Earth, in the direction opposite to the Sun. Gaia’s goal is to perform the largest census of our Galaxy and build a highly accurate 3D map. The satellite will determine the position, colour and true motion of one thousand million stars. Gaia will also identify as many as 10 000 planets around other stars, and discover several tens of thousands of new bodies - comets and asteroids - in our own Solar System. Credits: ESA - C. Carreau

(PhysOrg.com) -- Gaia, ESA's next-generation star mapper, will be carried into space by a Soyuz-STB/Fregat launch vehicle from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. David Southwood, ESA's Director of Science and Robotic Exploration, signed the contract for the launch with Jean-Yves LeGall, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace, at ESA Headquarters in Paris yesterday.

The mission builds upon the heritage of precision stellar mapping exemplified by ESA's now- completed Hipparcos mission. Gaia will map 1000 million stars at unprecedented levels of precision, with the objective to use its census of stars to clarify the history and origins of our Galaxy.

Prof. Southwood remarked, "Gaia is a grand challenge to understanding our Galaxy, to find out what it is made of and, thus, where we have come from. Europe alone has taken up the challenge. We therefore are very pleased to be launched by Arianespace."

"Arianespace is especially proud of contributing to scientific knowledge by launching Gaia," added Jean-Yves Le Gall. "Like Hipparcos, it will revolutionise our understanding of the Universe. This latest contract, the fifth we have signed in 2009 for a Soyuz from the Guiana Space Centre, is clear recognition of the quality and competitiveness of our launch service and solutions. It also largely illustrates the advantages of the European family of launch vehicles developed by ESA and operated by Arianespace."

Explore further: NASA ultra-black nano-coating to be applied to 3-D new solar coronagraph

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Russian rocket to launch from French Guiana in 2010

Nov 07, 2009

A Russian rocket will next year for the first time blast off from a European launch pad in South America, officials said Saturday, as the first rockets headed for the site on board a ship.

Europe postpones launch of Herschel, Planck telescopes

Mar 13, 2009

The launch next month of two large European telescopes designed to probe the formation of galaxies and the "Big Bang" scientists say created the universe has been postponed by several weeks, it was announced here on Friday.

ESA places two satellites into orbit

Aug 15, 2007

The European Space Agency successfully launched an Ariane rocket from Europe's spaceport in French Guiana on a mission to place two satellites into orbit.

ESA to launch weather satellite Dec. 21

Dec 15, 2005

The European Space Agency says it will launch the second satellite in the Meteosat Second Generation family Dec. 21 from Kourou, French Guiana.

Successful review for Jules Verne ATV launcher

Mar 07, 2008

The Launch Readiness Review (RAL), organised by Arianespace at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, last night gave the go-ahead for today’s transfer of Ariane 5 out to the launch pad.

Recommended for you

'Twisted rope' clue to dangerous solar storms

17 hours ago

A "twisted rope" of magnetically-charged energy precedes solar storms that have the potential to damage satellites and electricity grids, French scientists said on Wednesday.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Nik_2213
not rated yet Dec 17, 2009
The Hipparcos mission returned an astonishing wealth of astrometric data. I hope this 2nd gen. mission does well, too.