Press note - Darmstadt, 27 September 2016
The Aerospace Company Telespazio VEGA Deutschland, a subsidiary of Telespazio (Leonardo/Thales), will be supporting the final phase of ESA’s Rosetta mission, controlled from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC/ESA) in Darmstadt. The spacecraft is scheduled to soft-land on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 30 September 2016.
Telespazio VEGA Deutschland staff is and has been part of the Flight Control, Ground Station Operations as well as of the Flight Dynamics Teams of the Rosetta mission ever since the late 1990s. The company has been also involved in the development of key ground systems for the mission. This level of service stability for over 16 years was made possible through the continuous successes of the company to re-qualify for each five-year ESOC Frame Contract that has been issued since the early stages of the Rosetta programme.
This long-term support to the Rosetta mission, under the lead of an ESA Flight Director, has had several benefits for both Telespazio VEGA Deutschland staff as well as for the client ESOC: the staff gained in-depth knowledge and expertise of a unique mission, while the continuity of service ensured that this knowledge was maintained and optimally utilised on the mission. Since Rosetta will be turned off the moment it touches down, the mission will come to a scheduled end. The Telespazio VEGA Deutschland employees working on Rosetta will then be transitioned to other missions which will benefit from their experience.
In detail, Telespazio VEGA Deutschland has been involved in the following activities within the Rosetta Mission:
Development of a simulator for the Rosetta orbiter: The simulator has been used by ESOC to support flight control activities during the various phases of the mission: LEOP (Launch and Early Orbit Phase), the different flybys and gravity assists, hibernation, approach & orbit around the comet and now soft landing. The training & simulation campaigns have been led by Telespazio VEGA Deutschland experts.
Development of ground systems: Telespazio VEGA Deutschland has developed the Rosetta Mission Planning System (MPS), as well as the Mission Control System (MCS), which are and were used to plan, schedule, to monitor and to control the many different activities of the spacecraft over the years. Naturally, various technology upgrades of these systems have also been performed during the mission lifetime.
Operations: Telespazio VEGA Deutschland experts are part of the ESOC Flight Control and Flight Dynamics teams, ICT Engineering, Ground Station Engineering as well as Administration teams.
Philae Lander: Telespazio VEGA Deutschland has been supporting the operations team of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) at MUSC in Cologne during the various mission phases of Philae. This support included technical management, development of the Philae simulator; Ground Segment and interface development to allow the international team to support operations; 3D animations of both orbiter and lander, as well as Flight Control during the Philae cruise, landing and scientific phase.
Telespazio VEGA Deutschland is not the only entity within the Leonardo-Finmeccanica Group to contribute to the mission: Many of the Rosetta’s on-board and ground-based instruments, as well as those of the mission's Philae lander, are made by Leonardo-Finmeccanica in collaboration with key scientific and academic institutions under the coordination of the Italian Space Agency (ASI).
In particular, the company provided the ‘space drill’, known as the Sample Drill and Distribution (SD2) system, to dig into the comet’s soil surface to a depth of 30 centimetre acquiring samples of material from the comet.
In addition to the SD2, Leonardo also developed for the Italian Space Agency innovative robotic systems and sophisticated electro-optical instruments based on hyperspectral technologies. These include the A-STR Autonomous Star TRacker, which correctly orientated the Rosetta probe in space and adjusted the antenna to allow signals to be received from Earth; the NAVCAM camera, which aided in the probe’s navigation; the VIRTIS (Visible InfraRed and Thermal Imaging Spectrometer) instrument which measured the temperature of various features on the comet; the GIADA (Grain Impact Analyser and Dust Accumulator) which analysed the comet’s dust and particles and the photovoltaic assembly for the probe. Other smaller solar panels covering 2 square metres were installed on the Philae lander’s surface, generating the power for its on-board instruments to work on the comet surface.
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Thumbnail: Rosetta approaching comet
Copyright: Spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Comet image: ESA/Rosetta/NavCam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0