Archive for the ‘launch’ Category

Two years on…

May 19, 2011

I missed the 2 year anniversary of launch on 14th May, but a colleague has just sent me this, reminding me of the day when the first instrument on Herschel was turned on…

Exactly two years ago (on 19th May 2009), the first scientific instrument on
Herschel was successfully switched on. Since then, Herschel has been restlessly
producing fantastic and astonishing results which can even be downloaded directly to your iPhone/iPad!

It’s been an astounding ride since then, and it just keeps getting more and more interesting!

One year on…

May 14, 2010

A year ago today, Herschel and planck launched.

We’ve come a long way, and the scientific journey has only just begun!

Happy birthday Herschel and Planck!

WISE has launched!

December 14, 2009

WISE – the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, a mission to perform an all sky survey from 3.5 to 23 microns – has successfully launched and separated from the launch vehicle. Having gone through this stressful experience for the Herschel and Planck launch in May I know how good the WISE team must be feeling at this point!

For more information about WISE and the science it will produce, see the team webpages and for a movie of the launch and other details see the NASA WISE pages.

Congratulations to the WISE team! The real work starts now!

Imperial’s coverage of Herschel and Planck

May 15, 2009

Our home institute’s interview with Dave and Andrew.

Well worth a read!

A musical tribute to Herschel

May 15, 2009

From our colleagues at Lethbridge! Thanks Trevor and Peter!

In the Mirror

May 15, 2009

A report in the Mirror about the launch party at the Rutherford Lab yesterday. An interesting glimpse at how others see us.

This is *very* cool!

May 15, 2009
Planck-Sylda receding away from Herschel

Planck-Sylda receding away from Herschel

Very, very cool – this is an animation of images taken by Herschel’s Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) shortly after separation from the Planck-Sylda composite at 15:38 CEST on 14 May 2009. The images show the composite receding behind Herschel; Earth’s surface is in the background. The two satellites were travelling at about 10 km/s, 1150 km above the east coast of Africa.

And *this* is probably the last ever picture of Herschel and Planck:

Herschel, Planck and the Sylda seen from ground

Herschel, Planck and the Sylda seen from ground

Herschel, Planck and the Sylda seen from ground after separation from the upper stage of the Ariane 5, just hours after launch, starting at 23:30 CEST on 14 May.

The 1m Zeiss telescope at ESA’s Optical Ground Station Station at Tenerife in Spain searched and followed Herschel and Planck. At the time the images were taken, Herschel, Planck and the Sylda support structure were travelling at an altitude of about 100 000 km from Earth.

Four bright objects are clearly visible in the images, three of them form a clear triplet moving in coordination in the centre (the Sylda is the fainter of the three). The fourth object standing is presumed to be the upper stage of the Ariane 5.

The day after……

May 15, 2009

…. and now the hard work begins! Herschel is in good shape, and continues on its way to the L2 point. Most activities for the next six days involve spacecraft maneuvering and on-board checks – by the 18th, the telescope will already have cooled down to 175 K. The first instrument to be activated, SPIRE, will come on line on the 22nd and will undergo a battery of tests supervised by the Operations Team that will be travelling to the Mission Operations Center (MOC) in Darmstadt next week. HIFI and PACS follow in terms of activation on May 25th and 30th, respectively.

The really big day arrives on June 17th – the cryocover opens, and we obtain our first ‘real’ observations during the Commissioning Phase. Prior to that, all the instruments were looking at the interior surface of the cryocover lid. Busy, busy times ahead….

Andrew Jaffe from the Planck team has posted on the Planck blog about viewing the launch at Kourou (and has some rather nice pics!.

Apart from the event at RAL, Cardiff also hosted a launch party.

I’ll be posting pics from the RAL event online later today.

EDIT: A replay of the launch is available from the ESA multimedia page.

We’re on our way!

May 14, 2009

That was *very* nerve wracking (probably the longest 26 minutes of my life) – but Herschel is on its way!

Both spacecraft are alive and well and talking to the ground controllers.

At 15:49 CEST today, just under 40 minutes after liftoff, Herschel and Planck sent their first radio signals to Earth, confirming that they separated successfully from the launcher and are alive.

Herschel, the upper passenger, was the first to separate from the upper stage of the Ariane 5 at 15:37 CEST at an altitude of about 1140 km over the east coast of Africa. About 1.5 minutes later, the Sylda support structure that enclosed Planck came off and separated. It was followed by Planck at 15:40 CEST at an altitude of about 1700 km slightly East of the east coast of Africa.

The satellites switched on their attitude control and telecommunications systems right after separation, to re-orient themselves and establish contact with Earth for the first time from space. The signals were received by ESA’s 35-m deep space antenna at New Norcia in Australia.

The mission control teams will continue to receive telemetry from Herschel via New Norcia, and for Planck via ESA’s antenna at Perth, also in Australia. Spacecraft Operations Engineers at the Mission Control Centre will use these data to assess the overall health of the satellites after launch.

Almost immediately after telemetry reception starts, engineers will determine the actual trajectory of each satellite so that it can be fine-tuned for planned trajectory correction manoeuvres.

A group of 150 people attended the launch party at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot, Oxfordshire (the home of the SPIRE instrument), and in addition to the launch itself, we had a number of talks beforehand on the satellites themselves and what we expect them to provide in terms of scientific payoff. The room was quiet as a mouse during launch, as you might expect – and raptous applause followed when we received word that Herschel and Planck had successfully separated from the Ariane. Copious amounts of champagne were consumed afterwards, as you might imagine!

Now that Herschel is safely on its way, the hard work starts – the commissioning phase! For us on the SPIRE, the first milestone is May 22nd, when the instrument is switched on – several of our team will be at the Mission Operations Centre in Damstadt to oversee this.

But today, it’s time to sit back and relax(-ish)!

(Apologies for the lack of updates during launch – no internet connection! Photos from the launch party to follow.)

P.S. I even got interviewed for BBC Radio 4, for a documentary they will be producing on Herschel and Planck. Hope it makes the editing cull. 😉

Web stream from ESOC

May 14, 2009

ESA have made a web stream from the media event at ESOC (Darmstadt):