766 Days to Launch And Counting!
10 December 2000Representatives of the Rosetta science instrument teams came together from all over Europe and the United States last week for the 7th meeting of the Rosetta Science Working Team.
The purpose of the gathering at the premises of Alenia Spazio in Turin was to familiarise everyone with the latest status of the programme. However, the primary consideration for everyone was the limited time remaining to complete the spacecraft Assembly, Test and Verification programme - 766 days to launch .. and counting.
Members of the ESA project team for Rosetta explained to the 80-strong audience that the Electrical Qualification Model (EQM) test programme on the Orbiter and Lander is now half completed, although considerable work remains to be done.
All of the Orbiter's EQM instruments have been delivered and are currently undergoing functional testing. This phase of the intensive EQM programme is scheduled for completion by the end of January 2001, after which the instrument compatibility tests will begin.
"Progress is being made, but not quite as fast as we originally hoped," said ESA Project Manager John Ellwood. "However, engineers at Alenia are working double shifts and we are confident that we will be able to catch up with our tight schedule."
Meanwhile, all of the experiments on the Orbiter have passed their Final Design Reviews after several months of discussions about the results of tests on prototype instruments that have been carried out at the various institutes. This is an important step towards the Mission Critical Design Review in April 2001.
The meeting was also informed that the Assembly, Integration and Verification programme for the Rosetta Orbiter Flight Model will take place in parallel to the EQM tests. The first step will be the delivery of the Flight Model structure from Finland to Italy in mid-January, followed immediately by the delivery of key subsystems such as the harness and the Reaction Control System.
The scientists were able to see for themselves the current state of play in the EQM programme during a visit to the giant clean room at Alenia, where they could inspect at close quarters the Rosetta Orbiter and Lander EQMs (as well as the Flight Model of ESA's Integral gamma ray observatory which is scheduled for launch in 2002).
However, the main message for the gathered assembly was pronounced early on the first day by John Ellwood.
"No major technological risks are outstanding, but we must all continue to make every effort to meet our deadlines," he said.
"We are 'Go' for launch on 12 January 2003 - but Comet Wirtanen will not wait!"