Rosetta (spacecraft)

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Rosetta
Rosetta probe
Computer model of Rosetta
Mission typeComet orbiter/lander
OperatorEuropean Space Agency
COSPAR ID2004-006A
SATCAT №28169
Websitewww.esa.int/rosetta
Mission duration10 years, 2 months and 15 days elapsed
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerAstrium
Launch massOrbiter: 2,900 kg (6,400 lb)
Lander: 100 kg (220 lb)
Dry massOrbiter: 1,230 kg (2,710 lb)
Payload massOrbiter: 165 kg (364 lb)
Lander: 27 kg (60 lb)
Dimensions2.8 × 2.1 × 2 m (9.2 × 6.9 × 6.6 ft)
Power850 watts at 3.4 AU[1]
Start of mission
Launch date2 March 2004, 07:17 (2004-03-02UTC07:17Z) UTC
RocketAriane 5G+ V-158
Launch siteKourou ELA-3
ContractorArianespace
Flyby of Mars
Closest approach25 February 2007
Distance250 km (160 mi)
Flyby of 2867 Šteins
Closest approach5 September 2008, 20:38 UTC
Distance800 km (500 mi)
Flyby of 21 Lutetia
Closest approach10 July 2010, 16:10 UTC
Distance3,162 km (1,965 mi)
67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko orbiter
Orbital insertionMay 2014 (planned)
Orbit parameters
Periapsis200 km (120 mi) planned
Transponders
BandS band (low gain antenna)
X band (high gain antenna)
Bandwidth7.8 bit/s (S Band)
22 kbit/s (X Band)[2]
Instruments
ALICE: Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer
CONSERT: COmet Nucleus Sounding Experiment by Radio wave Transmission
COSIMA: COmetary Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer
GIADA: Grain Impact Analyser and Dust Accumulator
MIDAS: Micro-Imaging Dust Analysis System
MIRO: Microwave Spectrometer for the Rosetta Orbiter
OSIRIS: Optical, Spectroscopic, and InfraRed Remote Imaging System
ROSINA: Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis
RPC Rosetta Plasma Consortium
RSI: Radio Science Investigation
VIRTIS: Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer
 
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Rosetta
Rosetta probe
Computer model of Rosetta
Mission typeComet orbiter/lander
OperatorEuropean Space Agency
COSPAR ID2004-006A
SATCAT №28169
Websitewww.esa.int/rosetta
Mission duration10 years, 2 months and 15 days elapsed
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerAstrium
Launch massOrbiter: 2,900 kg (6,400 lb)
Lander: 100 kg (220 lb)
Dry massOrbiter: 1,230 kg (2,710 lb)
Payload massOrbiter: 165 kg (364 lb)
Lander: 27 kg (60 lb)
Dimensions2.8 × 2.1 × 2 m (9.2 × 6.9 × 6.6 ft)
Power850 watts at 3.4 AU[1]
Start of mission
Launch date2 March 2004, 07:17 (2004-03-02UTC07:17Z) UTC
RocketAriane 5G+ V-158
Launch siteKourou ELA-3
ContractorArianespace
Flyby of Mars
Closest approach25 February 2007
Distance250 km (160 mi)
Flyby of 2867 Šteins
Closest approach5 September 2008, 20:38 UTC
Distance800 km (500 mi)
Flyby of 21 Lutetia
Closest approach10 July 2010, 16:10 UTC
Distance3,162 km (1,965 mi)
67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko orbiter
Orbital insertionMay 2014 (planned)
Orbit parameters
Periapsis200 km (120 mi) planned
Transponders
BandS band (low gain antenna)
X band (high gain antenna)
Bandwidth7.8 bit/s (S Band)
22 kbit/s (X Band)[2]
Instruments
ALICE: Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer
CONSERT: COmet Nucleus Sounding Experiment by Radio wave Transmission
COSIMA: COmetary Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer
GIADA: Grain Impact Analyser and Dust Accumulator
MIDAS: Micro-Imaging Dust Analysis System
MIRO: Microwave Spectrometer for the Rosetta Orbiter
OSIRIS: Optical, Spectroscopic, and InfraRed Remote Imaging System
ROSINA: Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis
RPC Rosetta Plasma Consortium
RSI: Radio Science Investigation
VIRTIS: Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer

Rosetta is a robotic spacecraft built and launched by the European Space Agency to perform a detailed study of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. It is part of the ESA Horizon 2000 cornerstone missions and is the first mission designed to both orbit and land on a comet.[3]

Rosetta was launched in March 2004 on an Ariane 5 rocket and will reach the comet in May 2014. The spacecraft consists of two main elements: the Rosetta space probe orbiter, which features 12 instruments, and the Philae robotic lander, with an additional nine instruments.[4] The Rosetta mission will orbit 67P for 17 months and is designed to complete the most detailed study of a comet ever attempted. The mission is controlled from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), in Darmstadt, Germany.[5]

The probe is named after the Rosetta Stone, a basalt slab of Egyptian origin featuring a decree in three scripts. The lander is named after the Nile island Philae, where an obelisk was discovered with inscriptions. A comparison of the hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone and the obelisk led to greater understanding of the Egyptian writing system. Similarly, it is hoped that these spacecraft will result in better understanding of comets and the early Solar System.[6][7]

The spacecraft has already performed two successful asteroid flyby missions on its way to the comet.[8] In 2007, Rosetta also performed a Mars swingby (flyby), and returned images.[9] The craft completed its fly-by of asteroid 2867 Šteins in September 2008 and of 21 Lutetia in July 2010.[10] On 20 January 2014, Rosetta was taken out of a 31-month hibernation mode and is continuing to its target.[11][12]

Mission timeline[edit]

This is the planned timeline for the Rosetta mission:

Rosetta's current location can be found on the ESA website.[13]

Overview[edit]

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

Both ESA and NASA 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 minimising costs. In 1992, after NASA cancelled 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 cancelled 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,"[14] according to Gerhard Schwehm, Rosetta's Project Scientist.

It was set to be launched on 12 January 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 Ariane 5 carrier rocket during a communications satellite launch on 11 December 2002, grounding it until the cause of the failure could be determined. A new plan was formed to target the comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko, with launch on 26 February 2004 and rendezvous in 2014. The larger mass and the resulting increased impact velocity made modification of the landing gear necessary.[15] After two scrubbed launch attempts, Rosetta was launched on 2 March 2004 at 7:17 GMT. Aside from the changes made to launch time and target, the mission profile remains almost identical.

The first flyby of Earth occurred on 4 March 2005.

On 25 February 2007, the craft was scheduled for a low-altitude bypass of Mars, to correct the trajectory after the first launch attempt in 2003 was delayed by one year. This was not without risk, as the estimated altitude of the flyover manoeuvre was a mere 250 kilometres (160 mi). 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.[16] This Mars manoeuvre was therefore nicknamed "The Billion Euro Gamble".[17] Fortunately, the flyby was successful and the mission continued as planned.[18]

The second Earth flyby occurred on 13 November 2007.[19][20] In 2007, as it approached Earth for a fly-by, the spacecraft was briefly designated as minor planet 2007 VN84 due to it being misidentified as an asteroid.

The spacecraft performed a close flyby of asteroid 2867 Šteins on 5 September 2008. Its onboard cameras were used to fine-tune the trajectory, achieving a minimum separation of less than 800 km (500 mi). Onboard instruments measured the asteroid from 4 August to 10 September. Maximum relative speed between the two objects during the flyby was 8.6 km/s (19,000 mph; 31,000 km/h).[21]

The asteroid's orbit was known before Rosetta's launch, from ground-based measurements, to an accuracy of approximately 100 km (62 mi). Information gathered by the onboard cameras beginning at a distance of 24 million kilometres (15,000,000 mi) will be processed at ESA's Operation Centre to refine the asteroid's position in its orbit to a few kilometres.

Rosetta's third and final flyby of Earth happened on 12 November 2009.[22]

Reconstruction of the comet's shape

In May 2014, the Rosetta spacecraft 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 (2.2 mph; 3.6 km/h) 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[edit]

Mockup of Philae

Core[edit]

The investigation of the core is done by three spectroscopes, one microwave radio antenna and one radar:

Gas and particles[edit]

Solar wind interaction[edit]

Misidentification[edit]

In November 2007, during its second flyby, the Rosetta spacecraft was mistaken for a near-Earth asteroid and given the designation 2007 VN84. Based upon images taken by a 0.68-metre telescope of the Catalina Sky Survey, an astronomer 'discovered' the spacecraft and misidentified it as an asteroid about 20 m (66 ft) in diameter, and performed a trajectory calculation showing that it would make its closest flyby of the Earth at a distance of 5,700 km (3,500 mi) on 13 November 2007. This extremely close approach (in astronomical terms) led to speculation that 2007 VN84 might be at risk of impacting the Earth.[36] However, astronomer Denis Denisenko recognised that the trajectory matched that of the Rosetta probe, which was performing a flyby of Earth en route to its rendezvous with a comet.[37] The Minor Planet Center later confirmed in an editorial release that 2007 VN84 was actually the spacecraft.[38]

Timeline of major events and discoveries[edit]

2004
2005
2007
2008
2009
Hubble view of P/2010 A2
2010
2011
2014

References[edit]

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External links[edit]