France – The European Space Agency says it has set Sept. 10 for the liftoff of its GOCE — Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer — satellite.
The ESA satellite — the first dedicated to measuring the Earth’s gravity field — was due to be launched at the end of this month, but the date change was necessitated by precautionary measures taken after the malfunction of an upper-stage section of a Russian Proton launch vehicle.
Now confirmed not to affect GOCE’s launcher, the most advanced gravity mission to date is scheduled for liftoff from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northwest Russia aboard a SS-19 Russian rocket and inserted into an unusually low orbit.
As well as being designed to fly in an orbit as low as is technically feasible to retrieve the strongest possible gravity signal, the ESA said the sleek arrow-shaped satellite is unique in that its instrumentation actually forms part of the satellite’s structure and the spacecraft has no mechanical moving parts.
Once launched, GOCE is expected to map global variations in the Earth’s gravity field with unprecedented detail and accuracy.