Rosetta Scientists meet for progress report
16 June 2000Two and a half years to launch... and counting. That was the primaryconsideration for approximately 80 scientists and mission managers from ESAmember countries and the United States as they gathered this week at theEuropean Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in The Netherlandsfor a progress report on the Rosetta mission to Comet Wirtanen.
On 8-9 June, the ESTEC project team reported on the latest mission plans and spacecraft status. Detlef Koschny gave a very interesting presentation on the science operations to be undertaken in the close encounter phase of the mission. During this critical period, the spacecraft will acquire the comet, gradually close on its target, enter into orbit around the Wirtanen's nucleus and deploy a lander onto its surface. Then, for the next two years, Rosetta will fly alongside the comet as it sweeps towards the inner Solar System.
Of particular interest was Dr. Koschny's description of how the landing site would be selected and the final touchdown would be achieved on an object where the surface topography is extremely irregular, gravity is almost non-existent, and the density and strength of the icy material is probably very low.
Principal investigators (PIs) for the Rosetta orbiter and lander also presented reports on the status of the lander and the 11 scientific instruments on the orbiter. After the successful completion of the Structural Thermal Model test programme, instruments for the Electrical Qualification Model programme are now starting to be delivered to Alenia in Turin.
At the start of the meeting, John Credland, Head of the Scientific Projects Department, introduced John Ellwood, the new Acting Project Manager for the Rosetta Mission, who was attending his first Rosetta SWT. Dr. Ellwood, who is still continuing his duties as Cluster II Project Manager, is returning to Rosetta. He was appointed as the Systems Manager at the start of the project, before taking over Cluster II.
After listening to the comments of the PIs, Dr. Ellwood expressed general satisfaction with the way the spacecraft development programme has progressed so far.
"There have been a few teething problems with new hardware, which have resulted in minor delays in delivery, but these are to be expected on such an ambitious project and are unlikely to have an impact on the January 2003 launch date," he said. "Three EQM experiments have arrived in Italy already, and the others will be following over the next few months."
Some parts of the final Flight Model - the gyros and thermal louvres - have also been delivered, while other hardware for the Flight Model is currently being manufactured.
"Everyone is pulling out all the stops to ensure that the spacecraft lifts off on time and that the mission is a success," said Rosetta Project Scientist, Dr. Gerhard Schwehm.