Paris, France, 11 May 2006 – EADS Astrium has signed a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop and build the satellite for the Global Astrometric Interferometer for Astrophysics (Gaia) mission. Gaia will create an extraordinarily precise 3-D map of the Galaxy, mapping and recording more than one billion stars over a five year period.
The satellite, worth Euros 317 million, is due to be launched in 2011. The Gaia mission will help in better understanding of the composition, formation and evolution of our Galaxy. Gaia will be placed in orbit at the point of Lagrange L2 – a point of stability 1.5 million kilometres from Earth in line the Sun. Gaia’s measurement accuracy is so great that if it were on the Moon, it could measure the thumbnail of a person on Earth.
Gaia will be equipped with a latest-generation payload integrating the most sensitive telescope ever made. The telescope will have the largest focal plane ever constructed – with 106 charged coupled devices (CCD) featuring almost 1 gigapixels. This cutting-edge technology draws on EADS Astrium’s extensive experience particularly on silicon carbide (SiC) telescopes, used on Herschel and Aladin as well as on three recent Earth observation satellites (Formosat, THEOS and Alsat 2). All of EADS Astrium’s sites across Europe are contributing to this major programme.