Gaia from launch to orbit
Animation showing Gaia launch and journey to its operating orbit. The animation begins by visualising the launch from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on a Soyuz-STB/Fregat-MT launch vehicle. The rocket's four boosters are jettisoned 118 seconds after launch, and the spacecraft fairing is jettisoned 220 seconds after launch. The Fregat upper stage separates from Gaia 41 minutes after launch. The separation activates an automatic sequence on-board Gaia including switching on the spacecraft's transmitters, pressurisation of the propulsion system, initial attitude acquisition and deployment of the sunshield. By then Gaia will be on its transfer orbit from Earth toward L2, a virtual point in space some 1.5 million kilometres 'behind' Earth as seen from the Sun. Gaia will take about a month to cruise to L2 whereupon it will orbit in a so-called Lissajous orbit around L2, once every 180 days. The size of the orbit is typically 340 000 × 90 000 km. There, Gaia will spin slowly in order to make systematic and repeating observations of star positions with its two telescopes. Over the 5 year nominal mission, Gaia will monitor the positions, motions, temperature, luminosity and composition of one billion stars.