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Soyuz December 13, 2013

Gaia “sees” its first stars during preparations for Arianespace’s December 19 Soyuz launch

Final payload preparations for Gaia are shown in the Spaceport’s S3B clean room at French Guiana. The first of two payload fairing segments has been positioned around the spacecraft and its Fregat upper stage (photo at left). The 3.5-meter-tall decal with Gaia’s mission logo is positioned on the floor (second photo), while the pictures at right show its installation and the final result.

Europe’s Gaia spacecraft – to be lofted by Arianespace next week on a mission to map the Milky Way – has “seen” its initial stars with the spacecraft’s encapsulation in the payload fairing during final preparations at the Spaceport.

The 11.4-meter tall payload fairing will protect Gaia during its initial ascent aboard Arianespace’s medium-lift Soyuz launcher, which is to lift off from French Guiana in the early morning hours of December 19.

This fairing has been adorned with the European Space Agency’s logo for the deep-space flight – a 5.5-year adventure to observe one billion stars in the Milky Way approximately 70 times each.

Featured on the graphic is a representation of Gaia – the Greek mythological Mother Goddess, creator and giver of birth to Earth and the Universe.  She is depicted looking at the Milky Way as the Gaia spacecraft makes its way through space, symbolizing humankind’s curiosity towards the Universe.

Gaia’s encapsulation in the two-piece payload fairing occurred inside the Spaceport’s S3B clean room facility, enabling this completed unit’s subsequent transfer to the launch pad once its Soyuz vehicle has been rolled out and erected.

The Astrium space unit of EADS produced Gaia under contract to the European Space Agency.  With a liftoff mass estimated at 2,034 kg., it will be the 25th scientific satellite launched by Arianespace.

Soyuz December 11, 2013

Gaia is positioned for its star-mapping launch on an Arianespace Soyuz

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