ESA’s Gaia mission blasted off on 19 December 2013 on a Soyuz rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on its exciting mission to study a billion suns.
Gaia is destined to create the most accurate map yet of the Milky Way. By making accurate measurements of the positions and motions of 1% of the total population of roughly 100 billion stars, it will answer questions about the origin and evolution of our home Galaxy.
The Soyuz launcher, operated by Arianespace, lifted off at 09:12 GMT (10:12 CET). About ten minutes later, after separation of the first three stages, the Fregat upper stage ignited, delivering Gaia into a temporary parking orbit at an altitude of 175 km.
Gaia is now en route towards an orbit around a gravitationally-stable virtual point in space called L2, some 1.5 million kilometres beyond Earth as seen from the Sun.
This video includes highlights of the launch webcast including lift-off from Kourou, the Soyuz mission, separation of Gaia and the successful entry into orbit.