The European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite is ready for launch on 19 December at 09:12 GMT (10:12 CET).
ESA’s Gaia mission will create the most precise 3D map of our Milky Way by measuring a billion stars in it.
Gaia will be launched on a Soyuz rocket from Europea’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. It features the largest CCD focal plane, with 106 CCDs totalling almost a billion pixels, making it the largest digital camera ever used in space.
With Gaia’s unprecedented 3D map at hand, we will improve our understanding of how our Galaxy evolved, how it came into being and why it is the way it is. Scientists also expect to discover thousands of planets beyond our Solar System, tens of thousands of failed stars and 20 000 exploding stars.
ESOC in Germany will operate the satellite and ESAC in Spain will prioritise the science. DPAC, a consortium of more than 400 scientists, will analyse the flood of a million gigabytes of data that Gaia will produce during its five-year life.
The spacecraft was designed and built by Astrium, with a core team of Astrium France, Germany and the United Kingdom.