BepiColombo launch highlights

Highlights from the days up to and including the exciting launch of the ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury.

BepiColombo launched at 01:45 GMT from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. It will make a seven year cruise to Mercury, flying by Earth once, Venus twice and Mercury six times before entering orbit.

It is the first European mission to Mercury, the smallest and least explored planet in the inner Solar System, and the first to send two spacecraft to make complementary measurements of the planet and its dynamic environment at the same time. The mission comprises two science orbiters: ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). The ESA-built Mercury Transfer Module (MTM) will carry the orbiters to Mercury using a combination of solar electric propulsion and gravity assist flybys.

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BepiColombo liftoff

BepiColombo lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on an Ariane 5 rocket at 01:45 GMT on 20 October 2018

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ESA is Europe’s gateway to space. Our mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. Check out http://www.esa.int/ESA to get up to speed on everything space related.

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BepiColombo mission to Mercury

BepiColombo is scheduled for launch at 01:45 GMT (03:45 CEST) on 20 October on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou.

Final assembly of the two orbiters and transfer module has taken place, ready for the spacecraft to be integrated into its Ariane 5 launcher.

BepiColombo is Europe’s first mission to Mercury, the smallest and least explored planet in the inner Solar System. It is a joint endeavour between ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, and consists of two scientific orbiters: ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). The mission will study all aspects of Mercury, from the structure and dynamics of its magnetosphere and how it interacts with the solar wind, to its internal structure with its large iron core, and the origin of the planet’s magnetic field.

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Preparing for Vega-C

At the end of 2019 Vega-C will be launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana increasing performance from Vega’s current 1.5 t to about 2.2 t in its reference 700 km polar orbit, with no increase in launch costs.

Vega-C’s first stage is based on the P120, the largest single segment carbon fibre solid-propellant rocket motor ever built. It was successfully tested in July 2018. Its development relies on new technologies derived from Vega’s current first stage P80 motor. Two or four P120C motors will also be used for the liftoff boosters on Ariane 6.

Vega-C’s 3.3 m diameter fairing will accommodate larger payloads such as Earth observation satellites of more than two tonnes, and ESA’s Space Rider reentry vehicle.

The Vega launch pad and mobile gantry are being modified to accommodate Vega-C leading into a period when launch facilities will accommodate both vehicles.

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Aeolus quick steps to launch

This time-lapse video shows ESA’s #Aeolus satellite being prepared for liftoff. It includes shots from the cleanroom in France, its arrival by ship in French Guiana, preparations at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, roll out to the launch pad and, finally, liftoff on a Vega rocket on 22 August 2018.

Aeolus carries one of the most sophisticated instruments ever to be put into orbit. The first of its kind, the Aladin instrument includes revolutionary laser technology to generate pulses of ultraviolet light that are beamed down into the atmosphere to profile the world’s winds – a completely new approach to measuring the wind from space.

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ESA is Europe’s gateway to space. Our mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. Check out http://www.esa.int/ESA to get up to speed on everything space related.

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Credits of this video: Directed and realised by Stephane Corvaja, ESA; Realised and edited by Manuel Pédoussaut, Zetapress; Music by Hubrid – GALACTIC

Aeolus highlights

Lofted into orbit on a Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 22 August 2018, ESA’s Aeolus satellite will measure winds around the globe and play a key role in our quest to better understand the workings of our atmosphere. Importantly, this novel mission will also improve weather forecasting. The Aeolus carries one of the most sophisticated instruments ever to be put into orbit. The first of its kind, Aladin includes revolutionary laser technology to generate pulses of ultraviolet light that are beamed down into the atmosphere to profile the world’s winds – a completely new approach to measuring the wind from space.

Prior to liftoff, the satellite had been at the spaceport for around six weeks being tested, fuelled, encased in the Vega rocket fairing, rolled out to the launch pad and hoisted into the launch tower. Vega lifted off at 21:20 GMT (23:20 CEST, 18:20 local time) on 22 August. Some 55 minutes later, the upper stage delivered Aeolus into orbit and contact was established through the Troll ground station in Antarctica at 00:30 CEST on 23 August. The satellite is being controlled from ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. Controllers will spend the next few months carefully checking and calibrating the mission as part of its commissioning phase.

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Aeolus liftoff replay

ESA’s Earth Explorer Aeolus satellite lifted off on a Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, at 21:20 GMT (23:20 CEST, 18:20 local time) on 22 August 2018. Aeolus carries one of the most sophisticated instruments ever to be put into orbit. The first of its kind, the Aladin instrument includes revolutionary laser technology to generate pulses of ultraviolet light that are beamed down into the atmosphere to profile the world’s winds – a completely new approach to measuring the wind from space. By profiling the lowermost 30 km of the atmosphere, Aeolus will give scientists global information on the speed of the wind in near-real time. This will improve our understanding of how wind, pressure, temperature and humidity are interlinked. This new mission will also provide insight into how the wind influences the exchange of heat and moisture between Earth’s surface and the atmosphere. These aspects are important for understanding climate change. As well as advancing science and improving weather forecasts, data from Aeolus will be used in air-quality models to improve forecasts of dust and other airborne particles that affect public health.

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Highlights of Galileo 23–26 launch

Galileo satellites 23–26 were launched into orbit on Wednesday 25 July 2018 atop Ariane 5 Flight VA244 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. This marked Europe’s 99th Ariane 5 launch. Their launch campaign commenced back in May, with the arrival of the first pair of satellites. The second pair followed in early June. The video shows their preparation for launch, integration with the launcher and its final journey to the launch pad, followed by liftoff and separation of the satellites into their target orbit.

Copyright: ESA/CNES/Arianespace

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Galileo 23-26 – Liftoff

Europe’s next four Galileo satellites lifted off at 11:25 GMT (13:25 CEST, 08:25 local time) on 25 July from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana atop an Ariane 5 launcher.

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Horizons mission – Soyuz: launch to orbit

This unique video shows a full launch of the Soyuz MS-09: from liftoff to orbit.

Watch the launch from inside the crew capsule with first-ever shots from outside the spacecraft recorded by cameras fixed to the exterior of the Soyuz.

The intense launch lasts less than ten minutes whereby the Soyuz spacecraft is propelled 1640 km and gains 210 km altitude. Every second for nine minutes, the spacecraft accelerates 50 km/h on average as the rocket’s boosters burn their fuel and are discarded.
See the astronaut’s reactions and what the spacecraft looks like as the main steps are carried out to get into orbit:

-00:12 Launch command issued
-00:10 Engine turbopumps at flight speed
-00:05 Engines at maximum thrust
00:00 Launch
+1:54 Separation of emergency rescue system
+1:57 First stage separation
+2:38 Fairing separation
+4:48 Second stage separation
+4:58 Tail adapter separation
+8:45 Third stage engine cut off having arrived in orbit
+8:49 Soyuz separation, deploy solar arrays and antennae

The astronauts, from left to right, are NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Roscosmos commander Sergei Prokopyev and ESA astronaut and flight engineer Alexander Gerst launched in the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station on 6 June 2018. ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer and ESA television host Richard Hollingham provide commentary taken from the live event.

Hunched in their Sokol flight suits that offer protection in case of fire or depressurisation, the trio stay in the crew capsule of the Soyuz – the only module that is also designed to survive a return to Earth. The bags above their heads contain supplies for the International Space Station as every bit of space is used.

During a Soyuz launch astronauts typically experience forces of up to 4g – having to work while being pressed into their seats with a force that is four times more than the gravity felt on Earth. The Soyuz commander uses a stick to press buttons as they are too far away from the control panel.

The fluffy toys above the astronauts’ heads are mascots and good luck charms but also serve as a simple but effective test to see when the spacecraft is in orbit: when they start to float the spacecraft is weightless and orbiting Earth. Above Sergei is the mascot for the 2018 FIFA soccer World Cup held in Russia. Alexander took German children television icon “Die Maus” with him.

The launch went as planned as the 50-m tall Soyuz rocket propelled the astronauts to their cruising speed of around 28 800 km/h.
For this launch the astronauts took 34 orbits of Earth over two days to arrive at their destination spending their time in the cramped orbital module of the Soyuz that is no larger than a car. With limited communications and living space the astronauts had time to adapt to weightlessness and reflect on their mission ahead. They aligned their spacecraft with the International Space Station and approached the orbital outpost for docking on 8 June 2018. The files for this video were downloaded by the astronauts after arriving at the Space Station.

Alexander is a returning visitor to the International Space Station, the first of ESA’s 2009 class of astronauts to be sent into space for a second time. During the second part of his mission Alexander will take over as commander of the International Space Station, only the second time an ESA astronaut will take on this role so far.

Credits: ESA / NASA / Roscosmos

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Follow Alexander and the Horizons mission on social media via http://bit.ly/AlexanderGerstESA and on http://bit.ly/HorizonsBlogESA.