Rosetta (spacecraft)

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Rosetta
Rosetta.jpg
OperatorEuropean Space Agency
Major contractorsEuropean Space Agency
Mission typeComet Orbiter/Lander
Flyby ofEarth, Mars, 2867 Šteins, 21 Lutetia
Satellite of67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko
Launch dateMarch 2, 2004 at 07:17 UTC
Launch vehicleAriane 5G+
Mission duration8 years, 7 months and 15 days elapsed
Orbital decayN/A
COSPAR ID2004-006A
HomepageESA-Rosetta
 
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Rosetta
Rosetta.jpg
OperatorEuropean Space Agency
Major contractorsEuropean Space Agency
Mission typeComet Orbiter/Lander
Flyby ofEarth, Mars, 2867 Šteins, 21 Lutetia
Satellite of67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko
Launch dateMarch 2, 2004 at 07:17 UTC
Launch vehicleAriane 5G+
Mission duration8 years, 7 months and 15 days elapsed
Orbital decayN/A
COSPAR ID2004-006A
HomepageESA-Rosetta

Rosetta is a robotic spacecraft of the European Space Agency on a mission to study the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

Rosetta consists of two main elements: the Rosetta space probe and the Philae lander. The spacecraft was launched on 2 March 2004 on an Ariane 5 rocket and will reach the comet by mid 2014. The space probe is intended to orbit and perform long-term exploration of the comet at close quarters. On 10 November 2014 the Philae lander will attempt to land and perform detailed investigations on the comet's surface. Both the probe and the lander carry a large complement of scientific experiments designed to complete the most detailed study of a comet ever attempted.[1]

The probe is named after the Rosetta Stone, as it is hoped the mission will help form an idea of how the solar system looked before planets formed. The lander is named after the Nile island Philae where an obelisk was found that helped decipher the Rosetta Stone. The spacecraft has already performed two successful asteroid flyby missions on its way to the comet.[2] In 2007, Rosetta performed a Mars swingby (flyby), and returned images.[3] The craft completed its fly-by of asteroid 2867 Šteins in September 2008 and of 21 Lutetia in July 2010,[4] and is presently in "hibernation" mode and on-target for its final destination.[5] The spacecraft will remain in this state until 20 January 2014 when the hibernation exit sequence will be initiated.[6]

In 2007, as it approached Earth for a fly-by, the spacecraft was briefly designated a minor planet 2007 VN84 due to it being misidentified as an asteroid (see below).

Contents

Mission timeline

This is the planned timeline for the mission after its launch:

Rosetta's current location can be found on the ESA website.[7]

Overview

During the 1986 apparition of the Comet Halley, a number of international space probes were sent to explore the cometary system, most prominent among them being ESA's highly successful Giotto. After the probes returned a treasure-trove of valuable scientific information it was becoming obvious that follow-ons were needed that would shed more light on the complex cometary composition and resolve the newly opened questions.

Both NASA and ESA started cooperatively developing new probes. The NASA project was the Comet Rendezvous Asteroid Flyby (CRAF) mission. The ESA project was the follow-on Comet Nucleus Sample Return (CNSR) mission. Both missions were to share the Mariner Mark II spacecraft design, thus minimizing costs. In 1992, after NASA axed CRAF due to budgetary limitations, ESA decided to develop a CRAF-style project on its own. By 1993 it was evident that the ambitious sample return mission was unfeasible with the existing ESA budget, so the mission was redesigned, with the final flight plan resembling the canceled CRAF mission, an asteroid flyby followed by a comet rendezvous with in-situ examination, including a lander.

Rosetta was built in a clean room according to COSPAR rules, but "Sterilisation [was] generally not crucial since comets are usually regarded as objects where you can find prebiotic molecules, that is, molecules that are precursors of life, but not living microorganisms, "[8] according to Gerhard Schwehm, Rosetta's Project Scientist.

It was set to be launched on January 12, 2003 to rendezvous with the comet 46P/Wirtanen in 2011.

Trajectory of the Rosetta Space Probe

However, this plan was abandoned after a failure of the planned launch vehicle Ariane 5 on December 11, 2002. A new plan was formed to target the comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko, with launch on February 26, 2004 and rendezvous in 2014. The larger mass and the resulting increased impact velocity made modification of the landing gear necessary.[9] After two cancelled launch attempts, Rosetta was launched on March 2, 2004 at 7:17 GMT. Besides the changes made to launch time and target, the mission profile remains almost identical.

The first flyby of Earth occurred on March 4, 2005.

On February 25, 2007, the craft was scheduled for a low-altitude bypass of Mars, to correct the trajectory after the first launch in 2003 was delayed by one year. This was not without risk, as the estimated altitude of the flyover manoeuvre was a mere 250 km (155 miles). During that encounter the solar panels could not be used since the craft was in the planet's shadow, where it would not receive any solar light for 15 minutes, causing a dangerous shortage of power. The craft was therefore put into standby mode, with no possibility to communicate, flying on batteries that were originally not designed for this task.[10] This Mars manœuvre was therefore nicknamed "The Billion Euro Gamble".[11] Fortunately, the flyby was successful and the mission continued as planned.[12]

The second Earth flyby occurred on November 13, 2007.[13][14]

The spacecraft performed a close flyby of asteroid 2867 Šteins on September 5, 2008. Its onboard cameras were used to fine-tune the trajectory, achieving a minimum separation of less than 800 km (497 miles). Onboard instruments measured the asteroid from August 4 to September 10. Maximum relative speed between the two objects during the flyby was 8.6 km/s (19,240 mph).[15]

The asteroid's orbit was known before Rosetta's launch, from ground-based measurements, to an accuracy of approximately 100 km. Information gathered by the onboard cameras beginning at a distance of 24 million km will be processed at ESA's Operation Center to refine the asteroid's position in its orbit to a few kilometers.

Rosetta's third and final flyby of Earth happened on November 12, 2009.[16]

In May 2014, the Rosetta craft will enter a slow orbit around the comet and gradually slow down in preparation for releasing a lander that will make contact with the comet itself. The lander, named "Philae", will approach Churyumov–Gerasimenko at relative speed around 1 m/s and on contact with the surface, two harpoons will be fired into the comet to prevent the lander from bouncing off. Additional drills are used to further secure the lander on the comet.

Once attached to the comet, expected to take place in November 2014, the lander will begin its science mission:

The exact surface layout of the comet is currently unknown and the orbiter has been built to map this before detaching the lander. It is anticipated that a suitable landing site can be found, although few specific details exist regarding the surface.

Instruments

Computer model of Rosetta probe

Core

The spectroscopical investigation of the core is done by four instruments.

The interior of the comet is probed by the CONSERT instrument.

Gas and particles

Solarwind interaction

Major events and discoveries

2004

2005

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Misidentification as an asteroid

In November 2007, during its second flyby, the Rosetta spacecraft was mistaken for a dangerous near-Earth asteroid and given the designation 2007 VN84. Based upon images taken by a 0.68-meter telescope of the Catalina Sky Survey, an astronomer 'discovered' the spacecraft and misidentified it as an asteroid about 20 meters in diameter, and performed a trajectory calculation showing that it would make its closest flyby of the Earth at a distance of 5,700 kilometers on November 13, 2007. This extremely close approach (in astronomical terms) led to speculation that 2007 VN84 might be at risk of impacting the Earth.[41] However, astronomer Denis Denisenko recognized that the trajectory matched that of the Rosetta probe, which was performing a flyby of Earth en route to its rendezvous with a comet.[42] The Minor Planet Center later confirmed in an editorial release that 2007 VN84 was actually the spacecraft.[43]

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External links