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‘Sexy’ GOCE Spacecraft Will Try Again For Launch

GOCE in orbit.  Credit: ESA

GOCE in orbit. Credit: ESA

I got some grief for calling the GOCE spacecraft ‘sexy’ last year, but I’m sticking with that description. What a gorgeous spacecraft! And the GOCE team has stuck with their spacecraft while it had to stand down from launch in September of 2008 when problems were discovered with the guidance and navigation subsystems on the Russian Breeze KM rocket. GOCE had to be de-mated from the rocket and brought back into the clean room last year, but now is back on the launch pad, and is scheduled to liftoff on Monday, March 16 at 14:21 GMT from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.

GOCE, which stands for Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer will investigate and map Earth’s gravitational field. It will also provide a high-resolution map of Earth’s geoid, which is the surface of equal gravitational potential defined by the gravity field. This will greatly improve our knowledge and understanding of the Earth’s internal structure, and will be used as a much-improved reference for ocean and climate studies, including sea-level changes, oceanic circulation and ice caps dynamics survey. Numerous applications are expected in climatology, oceanography and geophysics.

GOCE at the launchpad in Russia.  Credit: ESA

GOCE at the launchpad in Russia. Credit: ESA

The 1 ton, 5 meter-long spacecraft will be in an extra low orbit (260 km, or 161 miles) and will experience drag from Earth’s upper atmosphere, so its smooth and lean (and sexy) surface helps reduce the friction. Adding to the sleek design is that the solar panels are attached to the long body of the satellite instead of sticking out and adding to the drag. However, the spacecraft will need a boost to its orbit occasionally, and has state of the art ion engines.

ESA has a great animation of GOCE in flight.

Source: ESA


Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today's Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT's Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Astrofiend March 11, 2009, 8:15 PM

    “I got some grief for calling the GOCE spacecraft ‘sexy’ last year, but I’m sticking with that description. What a gorgeous spacecraft!”

    It looks rather phallic to me. I assume that was part of the ‘grief-giving’ process, yes?

  • Mr Bill March 11, 2009, 8:19 PM

    I think it looks like Buck Rogers spacecraft from early soundies from the 1940’s and 50’s.

  • visitor March 11, 2009, 8:59 PM

    As long as the fins serves a purpose, I’d hate to see them having designs like the ‘chromed barges’ of the American cars
    of the late 50s’ that serves no purpose- to create manned craft and satiltites with no-working chromed fins and other decorator ‘touches’ is just more junk that can be created in collisions with other junk

  • ThereIsNoSuchThingAsMagic March 11, 2009, 9:42 PM

    I dont know about sexy, but it sure looks darned cool. But dont worry visitor, with the cost per kilo of launching a satellite being what it is, every single gram of that satellite serves a purpose :)

  • Silver Thread March 11, 2009, 10:18 PM

    It is a very aesthetically pleasing space craft, proof that the eye finds beauty in function.

  • Trippy March 12, 2009, 12:45 AM

    GOCE certainly is sexy, here’s hoping the launch goes well.

  • Another Visitor March 12, 2009, 1:21 AM

    Sexy is to basic

    This GOCE spacecraft is elegantly seductive

  • Adam Rosenblatt March 12, 2009, 1:34 AM

    Aritstic people at ESA….they understand people…..

    Alll the best to the team….

  • Feenixx March 12, 2009, 2:02 AM

    Thanks a LOT for that ESA link!!!!

    22 really cool movies, of outstanding clarity, very enjoyable and educational…. a real treat this morning.

  • marty March 12, 2009, 4:52 AM

    Nice space craft! I opt for using a DeLorean DMC-12 frame sometime,now that would be a cool sight in orbit.

  • Kevin F. March 12, 2009, 5:22 AM

    I’d call it “badass”, personally. That design rules.

  • GDal March 12, 2009, 5:59 AM

    Anyone know how the gravity field accuracy of this mission will compare to the GRACE mission? The GRACE mission uses two closely-separated spacecraft to improve its determination of gravity, plus the spacecraft are in higher orbits to reduce the disturbing effects of drag. Just curious if this mission adds value over the GRACE mission.

  • RickE March 12, 2009, 6:06 AM

    I’m sure a lot of good science will come of it but it does rather look like something lying at the side of the road that fell off a car –
    most likely Ford or GM.

  • 12 Angry Scientists March 12, 2009, 3:28 PM

    We are only interested in perchlorate on Mars…sexy satellites are an attempt to distract the public from the truth.

  • 1 Crazy Whack-job March 12, 2009, 8:17 PM

    12 Angry Scientists
    What the hell – “perchlorate on Mars” ??
    Surely ammonia perchlorate is used as a propellant in the solid rocket boosters. Is this what you mean by “…sexy satellites are an attempt to distract the public from the truth.” – as I would think it was already self-evident?

  • alphonso March 13, 2009, 5:42 AM

    Glad to hear they’ve go thing back on track.
    nice to see function shouldn’t detract from aesthetic design…

    Yes, it’s vair, vair cool.