Rosetta Ready for Launch
25 February 200424 FebruaryOn the evening of 23 February the final activity on the Rosetta spacecraft, the arming of the Lander harpoons and removal of the harpoon protective covers, took place. It was a delicate operation involving one team member being placed well inside the fairing on what is called a diving board to perform the operation.
At 15:30 local time on 24 February the Ariane 5 rocket moved along the 2.8 km rail line from the Final Assembly Building to the launch zone. Ariane Flight 158 is scheduled to launch at 07:36 and 49 seconds UT on 26 February 2004. On launch the rocket will undergo booster separation and burnout of the central core stage as in other Ariane 5 launches. The Upper Stage will then enter a long ballistic phase, followed by ignition 2 hours after launch. 14 minutes later Rosetta will separate and enter an Earth escape trajectory that will set it on its long course to Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.