The European Space Agency and the French company Arianespace signed a contract yesterday for the provision of an Ariane 5 ECA launcher for the Herschel and Planck spacecraft.
Herschel will study the birth of galaxies and stars and Planck the very early history of the Universe.
ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and Mr Jean-Yves Le Gall for Arianespace signed the contract during a ceremony that took place at ESA Headquarters in Paris, France.
The Ariane 5 ECA, an upgraded version of the previous Ariane 5 G (‘generic’) launcher, successfully completed its qualification after its demonstration flight on 12 February and a commercial launch on 16 November this year.
Herschel and Planck will be launched on the so-called ‘long-fairing’ version of Ariane 5 ECA to accommodate the two spacecraft, which are 7.5 metres and 4.2 metres high, respectively, with a total launch mass of 5.3 tons.
The launcher will deliver both spacecraft on the transfer orbit towards their final observation site – an orbit around the second Lagrangian point (L2) situated at 1.5 million kilometres from Earth away from the Sun.
Ariane 5 ECA, featuring an enhanced thrust and control capability, is perfectly suited to carry heavy loads like the Herschel and Planck couple into this particular and highly energy-demanding trajectory to destination.
The Herschel and Planck launch is currently scheduled for launch in late 2007/early 2008.
For more information:
Thomas Passvogel, ESA Herschel/Planck Project Manager
E-mail: thomas.passvogel @ esa.int