BY SPACEFLIGHT NOW
Follow the preparations and launch of the Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket carrying the European Space Agency's Rosetta comet explorer. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.
TUESDAY, MARCH 2, 2004
0939 GMT (4:39 a.m. EST)
Rosetta is in a looping solar orbit that will see it intercept Earth a year from now for a pivotal sling-shot fly-by, receiving a gravity assist on its trajectory to ultimately reach the comet. The craft will later fly past Mars and Earth in 2007 and Earth once again in 2009.
0936 GMT (4:36 a.m. EST)
0932 GMT (4:32 a.m. EST)
0931 GMT (4:31 a.m. EST)
0929 GMT (4:29 a.m. EST)
0922 GMT (4:22 a.m. EST)
0915 GMT (4:15 a.m. EST)
0914 GMT (4:14 a.m. EST)
0910 GMT (4:10 a.m. EST)
0857 GMT (3:57 a.m. EST)
0827:44 GMT (3:27:44 a.m. EST)
The new bay structure decreases the mass by 100 kg but decreases the level of shock experienced during the in-flight separation between the rocket's main cryogenic stage and the upper stage. The bay is a cylinder that wraps around the upper stage.
The particular upper stage being used today is different from previous ones flown on earlier Ariane 5 mission. The hydrazine fuel tanks of the Storable Propellant Stage are larger, allowing 250 kg additional propellant to be carried. Also for this mission, the complete upper stage including all systems such as engine, tanks and feeder systems underwent specific testing and re-qualification.
0729 GMT (2:29 a.m. EST)
0728 GMT (2:28 a.m. EST)
The Main Cryogenic Stage is suborbital, meaning it will naturally fall back to Earth before even completing a single orbit. It will burn up over the Pacific Ocean, breaking up at an altitude of between 80 and 60 km under the loads due to atmospheric re-entry.
0727 GMT (2:27 a.m. EST)
0724 GMT (2:24 a.m. EST)
0722 GMT (2:22 a.m. EST)
0720 GMT (2:20 a.m. EST)
0720 GMT (2:20 a.m. EST)
Altitude is 108 km, velocity is 2.3 km/sec.
0719 GMT (2:19 a.m. EST)
0719 GMT (2:19 a.m. EST)
0718 GMT (2:18 a.m. EST)
0718 GMT (2:18 a.m. EST)
0717 GMT (2:17 a.m. EST)
0717:04 GMT (2:17:04 a.m. EST)
0716:44 GMT (2:16:44 a.m. EST)
0715:44 GMT (2:15:44 a.m. EST)
0714:44 GMT (2:14:44 a.m. EST)
0713:44 GMT (2:13:44 a.m. EST)
0711:44 GMT (2:11:44 a.m. EST)
0711 GMT (2:11 a.m. EST)
0707:44 GMT (2:07:44 a.m. EST)
0658 GMT (1:58 a.m. EST)
The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission represents several historic firsts:
MONDAY, MARCH 1, 2004
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2004
0620 GMT (1:20 a.m. EST)
The liftoff is tentatively rescheduled for early next week, the European Space Agency said.
0610 GMT (1:10 a.m. EST)
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2004
Arianespace says the winds aloft are expected to be more favorable this evening. Conditions were unacceptable for a launch Thursday morning.
The rocket's main stage had been fueled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen during Wednesday night's countdown. The super-cold cryogenics were offloaded following the scrub. Now, the first stage will be refilled for this next launch attempt.
0720 GMT (2:20 a.m. EST)
"We have a weather no-go because of the winds at altitude. As we only have an instant launch window for this evening, it is not possible to go ahead with the launch and it is not possible to do anything other than come back tomorrow, same place, same time for the second attempt," Jean-Yves Le Gall, the chief executive officer of Arianespace said in announcing the scrub.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2004
In the last major event before the final countdown begins, the Ariane 5 rocket rolled out of its assembly building to the launch pad Tuesday.
A year later than first planned, Rosetta is due to begin its lengthy voyage Thursday at 0736:49 GMT (2:36:49 a.m. EST) from the ELA-3 launch pad in Kourou, French Guiana.
Overall, officials have until March 17 to get Rosetta off the ground or else await another launch opportunity.
It will take more than two hours for Rosetta to be delivered into a solar orbit that will see it intercept Earth again next March for a pivotal gravity assist fly-by.
Rosetta will be setting off toward comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, an icy space rock the size of a small town that was selected for investigation last spring after the first opportunity to send Rosetta to another comet was passed up due to concerns with the reliability of its Ariane 5 rocket.
Before arriving in orbit around the comet in the summer of 2014, the Rosetta probe will swing by Earth three times and Mars once to put it on course to intercept Churyuomov-Gerasimenko when it dips back into the inner solar system in the next decade.
Rosetta will also be put in a hibernation period from July 2011 to January 2014 when all systems except the main computer will be switched off.
Once in orbit, Rosetta will drop a small 200-pound lander onto the surface to carry out its own experiments. The orbiter will continue observations of the primordial space rock for several months until late 2015 when the comet makes its closest approach to the Sun.
After the 6,743-pound Rosetta was attached to the Ariane 5 upper stage February 16, the two halves of the Ariane's payload fairing were placed around the probe on February 18.
The storable propellant upper stage was filled with its load of hydrazine fuel and nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer last Thursday, February 19, followed the next day by a final countdown and launch rehearsal for the team.
Senior officials gathered on Monday to confirm the readiness of the vehicle for flight. Having issued formal permission to proceed with preparations, additional work was done to ready the rocket to roll to the launch pad Tuesday.
The final countdown will get underway Wednesday at 2007 GMT (3:07 p.m. EST). A check of electrical systems is scheduled to occur at 0007 GMT Thursday (7:07 p.m. EST Wednesday). At 0247 GMT (9:47 p.m. EST), super-cold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants will begin flowing into the Ariane 5's massive cryogenic first stage to fuel its single Vulcain powerplant. A chilldown of the Vulcain engine will take place at about 0417 GMT (11:17 p.m. EST). A final check of connections between the launcher and telemetry, tracking, and command systems is slated for around 0627 GMT (1:27 a.m. EST).
If all systems are deemed ready for launch, controllers will allow the countdown to enter a computer-controlled phase known as the synchronized launch sequence seven minutes prior to liftoff. Following this critical milestone is a series of fast-paced events culminating with ignition of the Vulcain main engine when the count reaches zero. The twin solid rocket boosters will fire to life seven seconds later, followed immediately by liftoff.
Flight 158 will follow a unique launch profile on its mission to place Rosetta on an Earth escape trajectory and into solar orbit. The solid-fueled boosters will burn for two minutes, 20 seconds before jettisoning. The nose cone shielding Rosetta from the elements is let go about a minute later. The first stage's Vulcain main engine will continue to fire until about ten minutes into flight, when it will shut down having consumed all its fuel.
In a departure from the vast majority of Ariane 5 launches, the upper stage will enter a long coast phase before finally igniting over the Pacific Ocean nearly two hours after liftoff. Burning for 17 minutes, it will inject Rosetta onto the initial course that will ultimately see it arrive in the vicinity of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in about 123 months. Separation of the spacecraft from the upper stage is expected about two hours and 15 minutes into the flight.
Flight 158 will mark the 162nd Ariane launch overall since 1979, and the first for the rocket in 2004. It also will be the 18th use of the Ariane 5 rocket since being originally introduced in 1996.
Stay with Spaceflight Now for live play-by-play updates during the launch of the Ariane 5 rocket with Rosetta.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2004
Fully fueled with over 3,600 pounds of toxic maneuvering propellant, Rosetta was lowered atop the Ariane 5's upper stage inside the final assembly building at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, located along South America's northeast Atlantic coast.
The milestone was one met with great anticipation by project officials, with just ten days remaining until Rosetta is placed into solar orbit to begin a voyage to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko that will span over a decade.
Sitting in a Kourou high bay for the past year after officials elected to opt out of a launch opportunity in 2003 due to rocket concerns, Rosetta began the run-up to a second launch campaign last fall with the testing of key equipment.
Assembly operations for the Ariane 5G+ rocket began January 19, and the vehicle's upper stage was attached January 21. Fueling of the spacecraft with its volatile load of fuel and oxidizer propellant took place over January 27 and 28.
With its twin solid rocket boosters now bolted on, the Ariane 5 rolled out of its launcher integration building February 10 for the half-hour ride on dual rail tracks to the final assembly building where it would soon receive its payload.
With Rosetta now firmly in place atop the Ariane 5 stack, the payload fairing will be attached to enclose the probe for protection during the few minutes of ascent through the atmosphere.
The completed rocket will roll out to the launch pad February 24, in advance of the anticipated liftoff February 26 at 0716 GMT (2:16 a.m. EST) from the ELA-3 pad in Kourou.
Stay with Spaceflight Now for continued updates and extensive coverage of the launch of Rosetta next week.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 15, 2004
Flight data file
Vehicle: Ariane 5 (V158)
Launch date: March 2, 2004
Launch time: 0717:44 GMT (2:17:44 a.m. EST)
Launch site: ELA-3, Kourou, French Guiana, South America
Mission overview - A sheet of facts covering the Rosetta mission.
Launch timeline - Chart with times and descriptions of events to occur during the launch.
Launch windows - Listing of the times to launch in coming days.
Spacecraft - A look at the sophisticated Rosetta space probe.
Comets - Once a myth, now an object of study.
Ariane index - A directory of our previous Ariane launch coverage.
Get e-mail updates
Sign up for our NewsAlert service and have the latest news in astronomy and space e-mailed direct to your desktop (privacy note: your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose).
INDEX | PLUS | NEWS ARCHIVE | LAUNCH SCHEDULE
ASTRONOMY NOW | STORE
© 2014 Spaceflight Now Inc.