Rome 20 January 2014
In the afternoon of January 20th, the European probe Rosetta woke up and sent to Earth its first signal after 31 months of hibernation. The signal arrived at the European Space Agency's Control Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. With a "Hello world!", Rosetta communicated through "her" Twitter account, greeting all the Eearth inhabitants.
It will take two months to complete the instrument checks. In May, the probe will begin to approach the 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet, which should be reached in August, and in November the Philae "lander" will separate from the probe to descend to the surface of the comet and perforate the ground.
In those years, the probe - which runs on solar energy - was too far from the Sun to recharge. Temporarily switching off its systems (flight control, communications and some of the scientific instruments) allowed it to "save energy", looking forward for the final part of its journey.
The Rosetta mission, launched in 2004, represents a scientific adventure designed to last 10 years, a journey of 7.1 billion kilometres in a hostile environment with great expectations in terms of scientific discoveries. The name of the mission is a clear reference to the stele kept at the British Museum in London, which allowed French archaeologist Jean-François Champollion to decode Egyptian hieroglyphics. Also, the European probe will help scientists cracking the many secrets of comets, the oldest celestial bodies in the solar system, composed of the same material that gave origin to planets.
The contribution of Finmeccanica is of particular importance as, through Selex ES and tehe joint-ventures Telespazio and Thales Alenia Space, the Group cooperated for the carrying out of the mission. Some onboard instruments, such as the VIRTIS optical and infrared spectrometer and the GIADA dust analyzer, were designed by Selex ES and will allow to study the surface of the comet, its composition, temperature, the nature of the gas and dust emitted by the nucleus and their interaction with the solar wind.
Thales Alenia Space took part in the Rosetta mission as the main contractor for the assembly, integration and testing of the satellite, as well as the launch campaign, including the responsibility for defining and procuring the mechanical and electrical ground support equipment. Thales Alenia Space also created a special S-band and X-band digital transponder, essential for communications with Earth.
As part of the Rosetta mission, Telespazio, with its subsidiary Telespazio VEGA Deutschland, designed and built ESOC (European Centre for Space Operations), the planning system and the control centre for the mission, as well as the probe's real-time simulator system. Experts from Telespazio are part of the ESA operating team that manages Rosetta and its trajectory of approach and orbit around the comet, as well as the German Space Agency (DLR) team, which deals with the Philae lander (which gets its name from the location of the discovery of an obelisk that was fundamental to the study of the stele) with technical management responsibilities for its design and for the laboratory that it hosts.