WorldWide Tech & Science. Francisco De Jesùs.
Gaia's mission aims to pick out celestial objects 400,000 times fainter than the human eye can see. The 1,000,000,000 pixel camera will map our galaxy in 3D with an unprecedented accuracy and test Einstein's theory of relativity with greater precision than before. The Gaia space telescope, built by Astrium, holds the largest instrument ever created fully in Siliconcarbide.
Today could change the way we look at the universe. EADS space unit Astrium is launching the highly-expected Gaia mission from Kourou in French Guiana. The goal? 3D mapping the stars, thanks to the largest camera ever made for a space mission.
Astrium’s Gaia telescope begins journey into space to map the stars.
• Gaia, Europe’s most advanced space telescope has been successfully launched and is now en route towards its final orbit, the L2 Lagrangian point, to be reached mid of January
• Designed and built by Astrium for the European Space Agency, Gaia will map the Milky Way in 3D to improve understanding of the origins and evolution of our galaxy
• Gaia draws on the best in space technology, including Silicon Carbide for the structure, a billion pixel sensor and cold gas micro-propulsion
The scientific satellite Gaia, designed and built by Astrium – the world's second largest space company – has been successfully launched from Kourou, French Guiana aboard a Soyuz.
Europe’s most advanced space telescope Gaia, built for the European Space Agency (ESA), will produce a highly accurate 3D map of our galaxy, the Milky Way, and discover and map objects far beyond its boundaries so as to improve our understanding of its origins and evolution. The Gaia mission is also expected to discover hundreds of thousands of unknown celestial objects, including extra-solar planets and failed stars, known as brown dwarfs. And within our solar system, Gaia will be able to identify tens of thousands of asteroids.
Gaia draws on the best in space technology and will carry ultra-modern instruments, including the most sensitive telescope ever made. This cutting-edge equipment draws on unique expertise developed by Astrium in the field of silicon carbide (SiC) telescopes, such as that used for the space telescope on ESA’s Herschel mission, as well as for all the instruments made by Astrium for Earth observation missions.
Through their space programmes, Astrium and its partner Boostec have created a successful new economic sector. The SiC produced in the French Midi-Pyrénées region enables Astrium and its partners to produce exceptional optical payloads for scientific missions and Earth Observation.
“Gaia is an unparalleled space system: the precision of its instruments and its technical conception once again prove Astrium‘s unique expertise in optical payloads,” said Eric Béranger, CEO of Astrium Satellites. “Mastering these exceptional technologies enables us to maintain Astrium’s rank as the world leader in the export of Earth observation satellites.”
Gaia will also use a ‘photographic’ sensor of unprecedented accuracy. The precision of the measurements taken by Gaia’s optical instruments will be extremely high. For instance, Gaia would be capable of picking out a strand of hair from a distance of 700 kilometres –the equivalent of the altitude of Earth observation satellites – by using its huge focal plane made up of 106 CCD detectors gathering 1 billion pixels. For its attitude control, the spacecraft will use a cold gas propulsion system with micro-thrusters, enabling it to remain perfectly stable and point with the required extreme accuracy.
Gaia will be located at one of the five Lagrangian points in the Sun-Earth system, at the L2 point. The Lagrangian points in our solar system are points of gravitational balance where a body such as a spacecraft orbits around the Sun at the same rate as Earth, thereby remaining in a fixed position relative to the Earth-Sun line. Located 1.5 million kilometres from Earth, the L2 point is vital for astronomy observation missions, which require high pointing stability.
Together, pioneering excellence
Astrium is the number one company in Europe for space technologies and the second in the world. It is the only global company that covers the full range of civil and defence space systems, equipment and services.
In 2012, Astrium had a turnover over €5.8 billion and 18,000 employees worldwide.
Its three business units are: Astrium Space Transportation, the European prime contractor for launchers, orbital systems and space exploration; Astrium Satellites, a leading provider of satellite system solutions, including spacecraft, ground segments, payloads and equipments; Astrium Services, the Space services partner for critical missions, providing comprehensive fixed and mobile solutions covering secure and commercial satcoms and networks, and bespoke geo-information services, worldwide.
Astrium is a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2012, the Group – comprising Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of €56.5 billion and employed a workforce of over 140,000.
Effective from January 1, 2014, Astrium will be integrated into Airbus Defence and Space together with Airbus Military and Cassidian.
Jeremy Close Tel.: +44 (0)1 438
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