It’s taken over a decade, but this week the Rosetta space probe is set to land on comet 67p/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Five state-of-the-art image sensors, designed and manufactured by leading imaging solutions provider e2v, are helping scientists to perform a detailed study of the comet.
Rosetta was launched in 2004 and in August this year, achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a comet’s nucleus. Since then, Rosetta has been orbiting comet 67p and mapping its nucleus in great detail and in September, identified the potential landing site for its lander (Philae). When Philae is released, it will make touchdown at less than one metre per second and will make Rosetta the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet, escort it as it orbits the sun, and deploy a lander onto its surface.
e2v has a long heritage in providing imaging technology for over 150 space missions including; the upgrade of the Hubble space telescope, the Mars Curiosity rover, Gaia and Kepler. For the Rosetta mission, e2v has provided high performance image sensors produced at its Chelmsford (UK) and Grenoble (France) facilities to equip the following instruments on the mission:
• OSIRIS – the high resolution imaging camera. It has a narrow field and wide field camera.
• NAVCAM – the navigation camera.
• VIRTIS (Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer) – which maps and studies the nature of the solids and the temperature on the surface of the comet. It also identifies gases, characterises the physical conditions of the comet and has helped to identify the best landing site (e2v’s devices are in the visible element of this instrument).
• ÇIVA (Comet nucleus Infrared and Visible Analyzer) – six identical micro-cameras take panoramic pictures of the surface of the comet. A spectrometer studies the composition, texture and albedo (reflectivity) of samples collected from the surface.
• ROLIS (Rosetta Lander Imaging System) – a CCD camera used to obtain high-resolution images during the descent of the lander and take stereo panoramic images of areas sampled by other instruments.
Marc Saunders, President of Space Imaging commented: “Only a few months ago we were celebrating the arrival of Rosetta at comet 67p and delighting in the magnificent images being sent back from our image sensors in the OSIRIS camera. As we now prepare for the landing of Philae, it’s a chance for us to show the world that we don’t just have the ability to take images in hostile environments; we can also help to analyse the comet’s characteristics and physical conditions, as well as its composition and texture. We are at the forefront of engineering for space science and are proud to be playing a part in uncovering more about the origins of comets.”
Scientists will be eagerly waiting to compare Rosetta’s results with previous studies by ESA’s Giotto spacecraft and by ground-based observatories. These have shown that comets contain complex organic molecules – compounds that are rich in carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Intriguingly, these are the elements which make up nucleic acids and amino acids – the essential ingredients for life as we know it. Did life on Earth begin with the help of comet seeding? Rosetta may help us to find the answer to this fundamental question with the help of e2v and its team of leading scientists and engineers.
The mission is planned to end in December 2015 and Rosetta will once again pass close to Earth’s orbit, more than 4000 days after its adventure first began.
For more information about e2v visit www.e2v.com
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Media Contact: For enquiries about this press release contact: Jennifer Spencer-Charles; Jennifer.Spencer-Charles@e2v.com
Notes to Editor:
About e2v: e2v is a leading global provider of specialist technology for high performance systems and equipment; delivering solutions, sub-systems and components for applications within medical & science, aerospace & defence, and commercial & industrial markets. e2v employs approximately 1650 people, has design and operational facilities across Europe, North America and Asia, and has a global network of sales and technical support offices. e2v has annual sales of GBP217m and is listed on the London Stock Exchange.
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