ESA lanceert satelliet voor onderzoek naar klimaatverandering (en)

Met dank overgenomen van EUobserver (EUOBSERVER) i, gepubliceerd op maandag 16 maart 2009, 9:18.

EUOBSERVER/BRUSSELS – The European Space Agency on Monday (16 March) was set to launch a state-of-the art satellite from a former Cold War cosmodrome in northern Russia, using a converted ballistic missile.

Scheduled for take-off at 15.01 Brussels time, the EU's GOCE satellite (Gravity field and steady-state ocean circulation explorer) will monitor earth gravity and ocean movements, as part of a broader exploration programme developed by the European Space Agency aimed at better understanding climate change.

The cost of the mission, including launcher, cosmodrome rent and operations is at €350 million.

GOCE will be launched by a Russian Rockot vehicle – a converted SS-19 Russian intercontinental ballistic missile, designed as a weapon during the Cold War. Around 150 of the SS-19 missiles were declared as excess in military terms by the arms reduction treaty (START) between the US and USSR in 1990, but were permitted to be reused as civil launchers.

The Pletsesk Cosmodrome chosen for take-off also dates back to USSR times, built in 1959 as a secret launch site for intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Soviet Union did not officially admit the existence of Plesetsk Cosmodrome until 1983.

Plesetsk is used especially for military satellites placed into high inclination and polar orbits since the range for falling debris is clear to the north which is largely uninhabited Arctic and polar terrain.

The European Space Agency (ESA i) has its own cosmodrome at Kourou, in French Guiana, but that facility is better suited for low inclination and equatorial launches.

GOCE will gather data for around 20 months and will download it to the ESA ground stations in Kiruna (Sweden) and Svalbard (Norway).

The satellite is controlled and operated by an ESA operations center in Darmstadt, Germany.

Ten European universities and research facilities with complementary expertise in gravity and geodesy-related science fields will operate the processing facility throughout the lifetime of the GOCE mission. All products will be available free of charge to scientific and non-commercial users.


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