‘Sexy’ GOCE Spacecraft Will Try Again For Launch


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

16 Replies to “‘Sexy’ GOCE Spacecraft Will Try Again For Launch”

  1. “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?

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

  3. 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

  4. 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 🙂

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

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

    Alll the best to the team….

  7. Thanks a LOT for that ESA link!!!!

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

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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

  12. 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?

  13. 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.

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