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Science & Exploration

N° 52–2000: Lift off for second pair of Cluster II spacecraft

9 August 2000

The second pair of Cluster satellites are now safely in separation orbit around the Earth after today's successful launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

At 13.13 CEST, (17.13 Baikonur Time - 13.13 CEST) ) a Soyuz-Fregat launch vehicle provided by the French-Russian Starsem consortium lifted off with Cluster satellites FM 5 (Rumba) and FM 8 (Tango).

Approximately 75 minutes into the mission, the Fregat transfer module fired for a second time to insert the spacecraft into a 250 km x 18,000 km separation orbit. About 20 minutes later, the ground station in Kiruna, Sweden, confirmed that the satellites had successfully separated from the Fregat and were now flying in good health.

"This second perfect launch within less than four weeks means that Cluster is on track for a highly successful mission," said Professor Roger-Maurice Bonnet, ESA science director. "We are now looking forward to receiving the unique three-dimensional data that will give new understanding of the interaction between the Sun and Earth."

Over the next week, Rumba and Tango will participate in a complex series of orbital manoeuvres in order to rendezvous with the other spacecraft in the Cluster flotilla (Salsa and Samba).

The quartet will then undergo three months of instrument and system commissioning before beginning their two-year scientific mission.

For regular status reports on the mission dial +49.6151.90.2609 at ESA/ESOC.

For more information, please contact:

ESA - Communication Department

Media Relations Office

Tel: +33 (0)

Fax: +33 (0)

Alberto Gianolio, Cluster II Deputy Project Manager

Tel: +31 71 565 3394


Philippe Escoubet, ESA Cluster Project Scientist

Tel: +31 71 565 3454


Further information on Cluster II and the ESA Science Programme can be found on the Worldwide Web at: