The ESA GOCE scientific satellite is ready for environmental tests
19 July 2007
Turin, 19 July 2007 - GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady State Ocean Circulation Explorer), the first European Space Agency (ESA) satellite dedicated to the study of the terrestrial gravitational field and circulation in the oceans, was today presented to the international scientific community and the press, at the Thales Alenia Space premises in Turin.
GOCE is the first of the core Earth exploration missions in the context of the ESA "Living Planet" programme and its purpose is to make the first very high resolution worldwide map of the terrestrial gravitational field, which is fundamental for oceanographic, geo-physical, geodetic, glaciology and climatology applications.
The satellite, which is completing the last test activities, will leave Turin to the European Space Agency's ESTEC centre (Netherlands) mid-August , where it will undergo a series of environmental tests. These tests will reproduce the extreme conditions to which the satellite will be exposed during its launch and the course of its operational lifetime of 20 months in space. On completion of the tests, GOCE will be transferred to Plesetsk, north-western Russia, from where it will be launched into orbit in Spring 2008 on a Rockot launcher.
Thales Alenia Space is the prime contractor selected by the European Space Agency to design and manufacture GOCE, and is also responsible for the integration and testing of the satellite. Benefiting from competences in France and Italy, Thales Alenia Space has provided advanced technologies including the sophisticated Gradiometer (Cannes), to measure the terrestrial gravitational field thanks to a set of six ultra sensitive capacitive sensors which constitutes the main payload ; the "drag free" orbiting and set-up control (Turin), to compensate for the braking effect of atmospheric molecules still present at operational orbit; the end-to- end simulator (Turin), capable of generating equivalent mission data and estimating performance in orbit; and a couple of sophisticated GPS receivers and the on-board computer (Milan).
Lastly, Thales Alenia Space has coordinated the contributions of the main European sub-contractors involved in the programme, including EADS Astrium Germany, which provided the service module.
Carlo Alberto Penazzi, Chief Executive Officer of Thales Alenia Space Italia, commented, "We are especially proud to have led this ESA project, which is of high scientific value, and represents a crucial step forward in increasing the knowledge of our planet structure and its wellbeing. The project has been an excellent opportunity for Thales Alenia Space to demonstrate once more its capabilities in the field of scientific missions as well as the synergies between French and Italian competences within our company".
About Thales Alenia Space
European leader in satellite systems and at the forefront of orbital infrastructures, Thales Alenia Space is a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Finmeccanica (33%). Together with Telespazio, Thales Alenia Space forms the "Space Alliance" between the two groups. The company is a worldwide reference in telecoms, radar and optical Earth observation, defense and security, navigation and science. With 7200 employees and 11 industrial sites, Thales Alenia Space is located in France, Italy, Spain and Belgium. www.thalesaleniaspace.com
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