Image: ESA Cluster's 16-year-old webcam restarted

February 26, 2016
Credit: ESA

Last week, flight controllers at ESA's operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany, recommissioned and tested a 16-year-old webcam on one of Cluster's four satellites.

The is a very low-resolution device, one of which was originally mounted on each of Samba and Rumba only to provide a simple, quick visual confirmation of separation from Salsa and Tango, respectively, during their paired launches in July and August 2000.

"It turns out the operation of the camera is quite simple and very fast, and we have also devised a way to use it in the future without interfering with the prime scientific payload activities," says spacecraft operations manager Bruno Sousa.

It was the team's idea to investigate whether the camera could be restarted, which Bruno saw primarily as an opportunity for training team engineers and as a way to connect with the general public interested in .

"The camera had actually never been used in flight before due to a glitch during launch, but it turns out that it operates quite well after 16 years, and the team are now working to optimise exposure and post-processing settings for the recommissioned device," he adds.

The image comprises 27 frames mashed together into an animation. Earth is seen rotating about the centre of the image because Samba spins for stability. It's a #selfie because, at top left, a small bit of the satellite's second low-gain antenna can be seen.

Explore further: Cluster: spacecrafts flying closer than ever for better science

Related Stories

All dressed up with somewhere to go

February 16, 2016

Yesterday, a 'team of teams' working at ESA's control centre conducted a final rehearsal for tomorrow's launch of Sentinel-3A.

Sentinel mission teams prepare for critical days

February 8, 2016

Moments after Sentinel-3A separates from its rocket, a team of European mission control specialists will assume control, shepherding the new spacecraft through its critical first days in space.

Mission team ready for Galileo launch

September 7, 2015

When the next pair of Galileo satellites is boosted into orbit next Friday, a team of mission control experts in Darmstadt, Germany, will spring into action, working around the clock to bring the duo through their critical ...

Rejigging the Cluster quartet

January 16, 2015

Aiming to study Earth's 'bow shock' in the solar wind, the constellation of Cluster satellites is being rejigged to bring two of the four to within almost touching distance.

Recommended for you

Fast radio bursts may be firing off every second

September 21, 2017

When fast radio bursts, or FRBs, were first detected in 2001, astronomers had never seen anything like them before. Since then, astronomers have found a couple of dozen FRBs, but they still don't know what causes these rapid ...


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.