Image credit: Arianespace
Preparations for Flight 158 entered a new phase this week as the mission’s Rosetta payload made its initial contact with hardware from the Ariane 5 launcher.
This activity occurred in the Spaceport’s S3B clean room, where Rosetta was positioned on a cone-shaped adapter that serves as the interface structure between the deep-space probe and Ariane 5.
Rosetta is now ready for its transfer to the Ariane 5 Final Assembly building, where the probe will be encapsulated in its protective payload fairing and then installed atop the launch vehicle.
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Liftoff of Flight 158 is set for the early morning hours of February 26 from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch complex. Instead of a typical launch window used for missions geostationary satellite payloads, Flight 158 has two specific launch slots: one at 49 seconds past 4:16 a.m., and the other at 49 seconds past 4:36 a.m.
Duration of Flight 158 also is unusual for an Ariane 5 mission. After a standard separation of the two solid booster stages and burnout of the central core stage, the Ariane 5’s EPS upper stage will enter a prolonged ballistic phase, followed by its ignition at almost 2 hours after liftoff. Rosetta will be separated from the stage approximately 14 minutes later, embarking on an Earth escape trajectory that will lead to its encounter with comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014.
Rosetta uses a cubic-shaped spacecraft bus built by Astrium in Germany, and has a liftoff mass of about 3,000 kg. The comet-intercept was under responsibility of the European Space Agency and will include the deployment of a small lander to the surface of Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Original Source: Arianespace News Release