The radiation monitors on Planck and Herschel show that both spacecraft have now gone through the Van Allen Radiation Belt. They’re well and truly away from Earth now and, by this evening, will be 1/3 of the way to the Moon.
Posts Tagged ‘launch’
Planck and Herschel are en route to their orbit at L2!
We all milled around for half an hour, snapping pictures of friends, eminent scientists, and at least one Nobel prize winner, but it all went silent when they announced the last few minutes before launch. The inevitable 10.9.8.7.188.8.131.52.2.1 and ignition was followed by a still, silent seven or so seconds, and then we saw the smoke and flames.
(Apologies for the poor quality; there were many people there with far more powerful zoom lenses than my meagre 2.5x.)
For the rest, we had to watch the video feed from the control room, and, about half an hour later we finally heard what we were waiting for: first Herschel, and then Planck, had separated from the rocket and were on their own, off to L2. Four or five hours later, Planck’s instruments had been turned on, and the ESA team in Darmstadt was monitoring their progress. There’s a lot going on now, but we won’t have anything like scientific data for two or three months — and then our work is cut out for us.
Huge thanks to the instrument teams for their hard work for more than the last decade. Soon, the hard part for us scientists and data-analysts begins: four or so years of data coming down from the satellite, being cleaned and calibrated, building and rebuilding our (computer) model of the instrument, letting us build and rebuild our models of the Universe.
Thanks also to the HFI Instrument Principle Investigator and co-PI, Jean-Loup Puget and Francois Bouchet (and especially Hélène Blavot) for arranging this extraordinary opportunity for us scientists to see this part of the fruits of our work.
The rocket fairing – essentially the nosecone – has been integrated with the launch vehicle. This means that the lid is on, Planck, and Herschel, are in place, and they should not see the light of the sun again until they are in space.
More preparations continue with launched roll out – the rocket being moved to the launch pad – on Wednesday.
We’re still on target for launch on Thursday.
Planck (and Herschel) are ‘space science as it used to be: big and bold – and risky. Not for decades has there been so much riding on a rocket launch, literally and metaphorically.’
This makes me feel rather proud for us to be working in such a grand tradition. It’s also scary to hear that ‘if we lose Herschel and Planck, the heart of ESA’s – and arguably the world’s – space science programme would be ripped out..’
Read the rest of the article here.
(And thanks to the person who tipped me off to this article!).
New pictures from ESA show Planck installed in the Arianne 5 rocket that will send it into space.
This will be almost the last time we see Planck before it launches!
The announcement of the new official launch date has spurred some new press coverage of Planck. BBC News Online has a nice piece which includes a rather good picture of Planck awaiting installation in the launch vehicle.
Arianespace has reached a decision and our new launch date is Thursday 14th May!
The cause of the delay was a suspected problem with cold gas thrusters on the third stage of the launch vehicle. That’s all now been sorted and we can now move towards launch.
Meanwhile, Planck is now fully tanked up with fuel and cryogens and has been integrated with the launcher. We really are nearly ready to go!
We’ve just been told that there is another launch delay of ‘a few days’. Planck will thus be going up at some point after May 6th.
More details available on the Herschel mission blog.
More news when we have it.