Arianespace’s contribution to space exploration continues with Rosetta’s historic comet encounter
The European Space Agency’s ambitious “comet-chaser” Rosetta space probe – which is one of the numerous scientific spacecraft that received an “initial push” with Arianespace’s launch services – is continuing its mission to explore the Universe, preparing for a rendezvous with 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko tomorrow.
The Rosetta “comet-chaser” spacecraft is shown in 2004 following integration on its Ariane 5 at the Spaceport.
Launched on an Ariane 5G+ version of Arianespace’s workhorse heavy-lift launcher in March 2004 from the Spaceport in French Guiana, Rosetta was successfully placed on an Earth-escape trajectory that began a 10-year journey through the Solar System toward its comet destination.
Designed to chase, orbit and land a probe on a comet, Rosetta includes an orbiter and the “Philae” landing probe, which is scheduled for deployment to the comet’s surface this November. Following Rosetta’s arrival, the spacecraft will study the comet and its environment for nearly two years – including flying alongside 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as it enters the inner Solar System.
In addition to Rosetta, scientific spacecraft lofted by Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate on Ariane- and Soyuz-series vehicles have travelled to Mars and Venus, investigated the Earth’s magnetic environment, analyzed radiation created after the Big Bang and set out to map more than one billion stars. Other scientific missions carried out by Arianespace- and Starsem-launched spacecraft also include exploration of: plasma processes in the magnetosphere and ionosphere, the Universe’s infrared wavelengths, celestial X-ray sources, stellar vibrations, extrasolar telluric planets, the chemical composition of celestial bodies and the Universe’s molecular chemistry.
This wide range of scientific missions underscores the flexibility and performance of Arianespace – operating its complete family of Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega launchers from French Guiana – to loft all payloads into all orbits: from scientific missions into special orbits to commercial launches into geostationary orbit.