Rosetta's asteroid 2867 Šteins flyby very soon now - September 5

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Just in case anyone's forgotten, the flyby
will be happening tomorrow:

The Rosetta spacecraft control room is buzzing with anticipation as Rosetta closes in on asteroid 2867 Steins. The fly-by timeline includes a series of critical events, culminating with closest approach - expected at 20:58 CEST, 5 September 2008.

At the time of closest approach, Rosetta is planned to be 800 km from the asteroid, passing by at a speed of 8.6 km/s relative to Steins. Both Rosetta and Steins will be illuminated by the Sun, providing an excellent opportunity for science observations.

Between 40 and 20 minutes before closest approach, Rosetta will be flipped and the spacecraft will switch to a specially designed asteroid fly-by mode, an optimal configuration that supports the intensive observation and tracking activity of the on-board instruments.
And here's the timeline (because observations will continue for some time after the flyby as well of course):

1 September
02:20Instruments switched on (except OSIRIS which was already on for the navigation campaign)
4 September
07:20-11:20Slot for possible trajectory correction manoeuvre (36 hours before closest approach)
13:20-18:20Last opportunity to acquire images for optical navigation campaign
5 September
07:20-10:20Slot for possible trajectory correction manoeuvre (12 hours before closest approach)
10:20Navigation cameras switch to tracking mode - initially both used, then use CAM 'A' only (to be decided)
11:00Uplink fly-by commands for asteroid fly-by mode (AFM)
Includes an update to the command profile already on board & the final updated AFM commands (only if 1 CAM at least is tracking)
20:18-20:38Spacecraft flip over
20:39Spacecraft switches automatically to asteroid fly-by mode
20:56Sun illuminates Rosetta from the back and the asteroid fully
20:58Closest approach, at a planned distance of 800 km from the asteroid
22:27First post-fly-by acquisition of signal (AOS) - telemetry received via NASA's Goldstone ground station
22:30Start of science data download via Goldstone
6 September
12:00Live streaming of Rosetta Steins fly-by press conference from the European Space Operations Centre begins
13:00Images from fly-by published on ESA web
15:00End of press conference streaming
16:01End of reception of first set of science data

Here's the blog of the people at general operations, so keep an eye on that. Here's the information they've given on the asteroid and the flyby:

Size4.6 km
Orbital Radius353 million km
ClassE-type asteroid
Rotation Periodapproximately 6.05 hours
Shapeirregular but not elongated
Closest approach5 September 2008, 20:58 CEST
Distance at closest approach800 km
Relative Velocity at the time of fly-by8.62 km/s

Can't wait!


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