Arianespace to launch Gaia; European Space Agency mission will observe a billion stars in our Galaxy
Gaia is a successor to the Hipparcos satellite launched by Arianespace in 1989. Gaia will be placed into deep space beyond lunar orbit by a Soyuz rocket launched from the Guiana Space Center (French Guiana) in 2012. The orbit will be of a Lissajous-type around the second Lagrange point (L2).
Built by Astrium, Gaia will weigh about 2,100 kg at launch. Like Hipparcos, a pioneer in space-based astronomy, Gaia will observe more than a billion objects with magnitudes down to 20. Gaia will enable scientists to provide even more accurate answers concerning the formation, composition and evolution of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, extrasolar planets and other galaxies.
“Arianespace is especially proud of contributing to scientific knowledge by launching Gaia,” said Jean-Yves Le Gall, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace. “Like Hipparcos, it will revolutionize our understanding of the Universe. This latest contract, the fifth we have signed in 2009 for a Soyuz launch from the Guiana Space Center, is clear recognition of the quality and competitiveness of our launch service and solutions. It also largely illustrates the advantages of the European family of launch vehicles developed by ESA and operated by Arianespace.”
According to David Southwood, Director of Science and Robotic Exploration: “Gaia is a grand challenge to understanding our galaxy, to find out what it is made of and, thus, where we have come from. Europe alone has taken up the challenge. We therefore are very pleased to be launched by Arianespace.”
Arianespace is the world’s leading launch Service & Solutions company, delivering innovative offer to its customers since 1980. Backed by its 23 shareholders and the European Space Agency, Arianespace proposes an unrivalled launcher family, comprising Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega, and an international workforce renowned for their culture of commitment and excellence. As of 1st december 2009, Arianespace had launched a total of 276 payloads, including more than half of all the commercial satellites now in service worldwide. It has a backlog of 25 Ariane 5 and 10 Soyuz launches, equal to 3 years of business.