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Herschel and Planck were launched together on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on 14 May 2009. The satellites were placed inside the fairing of the launcher; Planck at the bottom, Herschel on top.
After launch, they proceeded independently to different orbits around the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system, or L2. On reaching L2, Planck was injected into a Lissajous orbit (a kind of orbit that winds around a torus without closing onto itself) using the on-board thrusters. After exhausting its coolant, the spacecraft reached end of mission in October 2013.
On 9 October 2013, controllers commanded Planck to perform a lengthy, two-day manoeuvre to move away from the Sun–Earth Lagrange point and start a slow drift away from Earth.
On 23 October, around 12:00 GMT (14:00 CEST), the thrusters will again be switched on to burn the remaining fuel to depletion, an important aspect of rendering the spacecraft inert, as required by ESA’s space debris mitigation guidelines.