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N° 1–2013: ESA activities in 2013 of interest to media - Update 25 April 2013

25 April 2013

Expected key events of the year (check the ESA website at for the final dates):

The upcoming solar maximum and its impact on planets
In 2013, the Sun will reach a maximum in its 11-year cycle of activity, one which is likely to be the weakest for a century. ESA's fleet of spacecraft currently operating (including SOHO, Cluster, Swarm, Mars Express and Venus Express) will observe at the same time the Sun and the impact of solar activity on our Solar System's three terrestrial planets (providing, for example, an unprecedented view of how magnetic fields shield a planetary atmosphere from powerful solar eruptions).
Expected date: throughout the year

SMOS results conference
Launched in 2009, the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission is making global observations of soil moisture over land and sea-surface salinity over the oceans to improve our understanding of the water cycle.
Location: ESAC, Madrid (ES)
Date: 22 February

Planck: Cosmic Microwave Background map release
Launched in 2009, Planck studies the Cosmic Microwave Background - the relic radiation from the Big Bang - to allow cosmologists to zero-in on theories that describe the Universe's birth and evolution. The first all-sky images of the Cosmic Microwave Background will be presented at the press conference.
Location: Paris ESA HQ
Date: 21 March

Space debris conference
The International Conference on Space Debris will be held at ESOC. A press conference will be organised at the end of the conference.
Location: ESOC, Darmstadt (Germany)
Date: 25 April

Launch of Proba-V on Vega
Proba-V is a miniaturised satellite for a full-scale mission tracking global vegetation. Along with its main mission, Proba-V also hosts five promising technologies from across Europe that will be demonstrated in space. Proba-V will be launched on the new Vega vehicle, which will on this flight further demonstrate its capability by carrying several payloads for delivery into two very different orbits.
Location: CSG, Europe's Spaceport (French Guiana).
Expected date: 3 May

Launch of Expedition 36 to ISS with ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano
Luca Parmitano is assigned to fly on the International Space Station from May to November 2013, serving as a flight engineer for Expeditions 36 and 37. He will be the first astronaut out of the new generation selected in 2009.
Location: Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan; main event in Italy, in cooperation with ASI
Expected date: 29 May

Gaia scientific instrument delivery

Scheduled for launch in the second half of 2013, Gaia is a global space astrometry mission that will make the largest, most precise 3D map of our Milky Way Galaxy by surveying an unprecedented number of stars - more than a billion. The scientific instrument assembly will be delivered in the beginning of 2013. It features the largest digital camera ever to be flown in space.
Location: Astrium, Toulouse (France)
Date: 27 June

Launch of ATV Albert Einstein on Ariane 5
Each Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) can deliver up to 7 tonnes of cargo to the International Space Station, including food, drinking water, gases, research and maintenance equipment and around 3 tonnes of propellants. The versatile craft also regularly boosts the Station's orbit and occasionally manoeuvres the complex to avoid collisions with space debris. With it, Europe is contributing in kind towards its share of the operational costs of the Station. The fourth ATV (ATV-4) is named after Albert Einstein.
Location: CSG, Europe's Spaceport (French Guiana) and ATV Control Centre, Toulouse (France); main European launch event: Ulm (Germany)
Expected date: 5 June

Mars Express 10th Anniversary 
The European Mars orbiter will celebrate 10 years in orbit. A media event at ESOC will be the opportunity to release the complete mineralogical map of Mars, in particular hydrates leading to the history of water and supporting the selection of landing sites for the Exomars missions.
Location: ESOC, Darmstadt (Germany)
Date: 3-7 June

50th International Paris Air & Space Show, Le Bourget, France
ESA will be present in the world's largest air and space exhibition with a space pavilion. A media event will be organised.
Location: Le Bourget, Paris (France)
Date: 17-23 June

Launch of Alphasat I-XL on Ariane 5
The Alphasat mission is a Public-Private Partnership between ESA and Inmarsat Global Ltd. ESA is providing the first flight model of the new Alphabus platform. The Alphabus product line allows European industry to extend its telecommunication satellite range significantly beyond the capabilities of the existing platforms, providing a new multipurpose platform targeted on the high-power payload telecommunication satellite market. Alphasat is also carrying four ESA technology demonstration payloads.
Location: CSG, Europe's Spaceport (French Guiana)
Expected date: Summer 2013

James Webb Space Telescope: delivery of NIRSpec
The James Webb Space Telescope will feature several major ESA contributions, including the NIRSpec near-infrared spectrograph. This scientific instrument will allow the continuous observation of 100 faint galaxies to determine their chemical composition, and the rate at which stars are forming. It will also allow astronomers for the first time to detect water on planets around other stars.
Location: EADS Astrium, Ottobrunn (Germany)
Date: July

Launch: Galileo FOC satellites
Following the In-Orbit Validation (IOV) phase, four satellites are being used to qualify the Galileo space, ground and user segment through extensive testing. 2013 will see the launch of the first Full Operational Capability (FOC) satellites of the complete constellation with 27 satellites and three spares in orbit. In 2013 two FOC launches are planned, each on a Soyuz launcher with two satellites each.
Location: CSG, Europe's Spaceport (French Guiana)
Expected date: second half of 2013

Launch of Gaia on Soyuz
Gaia is a discovery machine charged with charting our home galaxy, the Milky Way to understand its evolution. Gaia follows in the footsteps of Hipparcos, ESA's first mission to measure the position, distance and properties of stars.
Location: CSG, Europe's Spaceport (French Guiana). Main launch event in Europe: ESOC, Darmstadt (Germany)
Expected date: second half of 2013

Living Planet Symposium
Hundreds of scientists will present and learn about the results of ESA Earth observation missions for Earth's environment and climate. Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Date: 9-13 September

Launch: Swarm, ESA's magnetic field mission
The multi-satellite Swarm mission will make the best survey yet of Earth's magnetic field and its evolution, and improve our knowledge of Earth's interior and climate. Swarm is a constellation of three satellites in three different polar orbits between 400 km and 550 km altitude. High-precision and high-resolution measurements of the strength and direction of the magnetic field will be provided by each satellite.
Location: Plesetsk Cosmodrome (Russia). Main launch event to be held at ESOC
Expected date: 4 October

Landing of ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano
After completing his six-month Volare mission on the International Space Station, Luca Parmitano will land on the steppes of Kazakhstan.
Location: Baikonour Cosmodrome (Kazakhstan) and ESA establishments
Date: November

End of GOCE
Launched in 2009, the successful Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite will end its mission by deorbiting in November 2013.
Date: November

Rosetta is ESA's comet chaser: for the first time, an orbiter and a lander will analyse a comet while it is approaching the Sun. Rosetta may provide us with the missing links in our understanding of the evolution of our Solar system. Rosetta will wake up from its hibernation in January 2014. A press conference will be organised to brief media about the mission milestones in 2014.
Location: ESOC, Darmstadt (Germany)
Date: November

Herschel maps our galaxy
The Herschel mission has been operating since 2009, painstakingly mapping the plane of our galaxy, the Milky Way, one small segment at a time. A complete map of the Galactic plane will be released, allowing us to study in detail all the sites where stars are currently being born in our galaxy.
Expected date: end of the year

Skimming the surface of Phobos
Mars Express will perform the closest ever fly-by of martian moon Phobos, passing only 58 km from the moon's centre (or within around 47 km of the moon's surface). Flying so close to the surface will in itself be a navigation feat, and will provide an unprecedented determination of the moon's mass distribution.
Expected date: Flyby will take place on 29 December, with results available in early 2014

Launch of Sentinel-1A on Soyuz
Launching the Sentinel-1 mission will be the first step in the new family of satellites for the GMES programme, in cooperation with the European Commission. The mission will provide operational data for future services that will benefit the citizens of Europe, but it will also ensure data continuity for the many existing projects that have relied on data from ESA's ERS and Envisat satellites.
Location: CSG, Europe's Spaceport (French Guiana)
Expected date: end 2013-early 2014 (still under discussion).

About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space.

ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 20 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, of whom 18 are Member States of the EU.

ESA has Cooperation Agreements with eight other Member States of the EU and is discussing an Agreement with the one remaining (Bulgaria). Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.

Today, it launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space.

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