Rome 29 September 2016
The European Space Agency’s historic Rosetta mission has come to an end. The probe has landed on the surface of the 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko comet, thus concluding its 12-year long journey through Space. An extraordinary mission, which was able unravel many mysteries about the composition of comets, their origin and their connection with the formation of the Solar System, that ended in a spectacular fashion.
The complex manoeuvre of landing on the 67P comet was managed in the ESA control room in Darmstadt, Germany, by the ESOC (European Space Operations Centre) team, supported by staff of Telespazio VEGA Deutschland, a subsidiary of Leonardo-Finmeccanica.
The Rosetta probe is also the result of Leonardo’s industrial capacity. The Company participated in the mission by creating many high-tech products, such as the star tracker sensor A-STR, that allowed the probe to orient itself correctly in Space and also point its antenna to send signals back to Earth. Leonardo’s navigation camera (NAVCAM) collected high-resolution images as the probe passed by the Steins and Lutetia asteroids and guided Rosetta to the comet, continuing to collect photos of its surface throughout the two years in which it accompanied it during the mission.
Leonardo also created the GIADA tool - Grain Impact Analyser and Dust Accumulator – to analyse the dust and particles in the comet’s coma; with the VIRTIS tool – Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer – a previously unknown water cycle was discovered among other things.
Leonardo also equipped the Philae lander with the Sample Drill & Distribution (SD2) drill, created with scientific coordination from the Politecnico di Milano, which in November 2014, for the first time in history, was operated in an attempt to drill into the comet’s surface.
Finally, both the Rosetta probe and the Philae lander are equipped with Leonardo’s solar panels.
The panels on the probe are still the largest photovoltaic plant operating on an interplanetary mission in Space.
Telespazio (a joint venture between Leonardo and Thales) contributed to the development of key elements for the mission’s ground systems and the control and planning systems used to schedule the orbiter’s various activities, including ground control during the Philae’s commissioning phase.
Thales Alenia Space (a joint venture between Thales and Leonardo) provided telecommunications apparatus and systems such as the digital transponder, which was essential for allowing the probe to keep in contact with Earth, and played a decisive role in the assembly, integration and testing of the probe.