Those present watched the launch in silence; when the success of the first phase was confirmed, they all clapped.
This morning, at 10.12 a.m. (local time in mainland Spain), the satellite Gaia of the European Space Agency (ESA) was launched successfully from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou (French Guiana). About 300 people —students, lecturers and researchers of Gaia UB Group who collaborated in the mission— watched the launch live at UB. Throughout the event, researchers described the mission and its launch phases and give some details about the Spanish participation in the project.
Most Gaia UB Group researchers from the Institute of Sciences of the Cosmos (ICCUB) and the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC) watched the launch live at the University, some of them went to Darmstadt (Germany), where ESA’s European Space Operation Centre is located, and some others watched it live at the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC), in Villanueva de la Cañada (Madrid), where an event was organised too.
A Soyuz-Fregat launch vehicle carried the two-tone satellite to a low Earth orbit. Once its elements were detached, Gaia opened its sunshield; this was a crucial moment. Now, the satellite will perform nearly a complete revolution around the Earth, before going towards its final location, the Lagrangian point known as L2, located at 1.5 million kilometres further from the Sun.
Gaia will take about a month to cruise to its orbit around L2. Then, it will have two months to calibrate and verify its complex instruments. From that moment, daily observations will be set up for five years.
Gaia Mission App
The Gaia UB Group has developed the Gaia Mission App that provides scientific and technical details of the mission and keeps users updated on satellite’s operations from its launch. The app is available in English, Spanish and Catalan.
Amazing 3D maps enable to locate all high-tech components and understand its purpose and operation; interactive demos allow a better understanding of mission’s main principles; images and videos dive users into mission’s scientific and technological challenges.
During five years, Gaia will take a census of a billion stars to create the most complete 3D map of the Milky Way ever done. The satellite will chart positions, distances and movements of a billion stars (1% of the total in our Galaxy). The main scientific objective of the mission is to trace the history of the Milky Way, from its origins to its current state.
• ESA’s piece of news about the launch
• Further information about the Gaia mission