Philae on-line again: Hello Earth, can you hear me?
After a seven months total blackout – as a consequence of Philae’s hibernation period- the little Lander who detached itself 10 months ago from the Rosetta’s space probe transmitted a stable signal lasting a few dozen of seconds yesterday night before tweeting to Earth.
Finmeccanica and its companies played a key role in breaking the record of this historical mission by providing the 2 square meters solar panels covering the surface of Philae. The panels being manufactured in Nerviano (Milan) by Finmeccanica’s Selex ES company, did not stop working during hibernation period in order to recharge batteries on board. By getting closer to the Sun the batteries dramatically increased their amount of energy production until reaching a sufficient level in order to restart transmissions.
The excellence of this technology was also confirmed by the fact that this solar panels are also included into mother spacecraft Rosetta with Selex ES producing the largest solar panels ever manufactured for a space mission, counting an area of 62 square meters for approximately 14 meters.
Notwithstanding the fact that we are clearly in a early stage for evaluating the progression of the operations on the comet, it can be certainly assessed that this news embodies a success of Finmeccanica’s technology. The company takes part to the mission with both ground and on board instruments ranging from a special drill called Sample Drill and Distribution (SD2) for the analysis of the cometary surface, to A-STR (Autonomous Star TRacker) sensor allowing Rosetta’s probe to track its non-stop orientation into Space and direct its antennas so to transmit its signal back to Earth, or NAVCAM camera for the spatial navigation of the probe, or spectrometer VIRTIS (Visible and InfraRed Thermal Imaging Spectrometer) detecting temperature’s conditions of the comet or even GIADA (Grain Impact Analyser and Dust Accumulator), an instrument capable of analyzing the comet’s dust and particles.
Finmeccanica - Telespazio, through its subsidiary Telespazio VEGA Deutschland, designed and built for the ESOC (European Centre for Space Operations) mission’s control and planning systems, as well as Rosetta’s real-time simulation system. Finmeccanica – Telespazio’s experts are working both within the operational ESA team - who managed Rosetta, its trajectory and orbit around the comet- and among the German Space Agency (DLR) team which is in charge of the Lander operations and technical management.
Thales Alenia Space takes part in the mission on satellite’s assembly and integration activities on the top of defining and supplying both mechanical and electrical ground support equipment. Aside from its crucial role on the launch, the company has created a special satellite’s on board digital transponder, operating in S and X bands, which is essential in connecting the probe to Earth.
After the two contacts received in recent days, the good news is that Philae is doing well while temperatures will rise on the comet as it gets closer to the Sun. At this stage we should wait for updates on the Lander’s activities and from its instruments of analysis. Updates and follow-up are expected, especially those concerning scientific data on comet’s surface that might provide interesting information on the origin of the Solar System.