Today at 17:03 PM (CET), the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt reported a successful landing, announcing: “Philae has landed!”. Some seven hours before, the Philae lander had detached from the Rosetta spacecraft – developed and built for the European Space Agency (ESA) by Airbus Defence and Space, the world’s second largest space company, as prime contractor – to begin its slow descent towards the surface of the comet. Airbus Defence and Space supported Philae´s team with electrical design, integration, testing and construction of the landing gear.
Travelling at a speed of one metre per second, the three-legged lander landed successfully in the target area. On Earth, Philae weighs in at around 100 kg; on the comet, less than 2g. To stop itself from rebounding off the comet’s surface, Philae has a complex landing system with a damper, and dug itself in using two harpoons and three ice screws. Equipped with 10 scientific instruments, Philae is now ready to start its scientific work, having already gathered initial data during its descent. It is relaying data 490 million kilometres back to Earth via Rosetta.
“Philae’s successful landing tops off an already spectacular Rosetta mission. We at Airbus Defence and Space are extremely proud to have contributed to the Rosetta success story with our innovative concepts and designs, robust and reliable systems, and the dedicated work of employees both at Airbus Defence and Space and at all the other partners in the industrial consortium and ESA. This is a world first – landing on a comet travelling at 135,000 km per hour after a 10 year journey through our solar system, it is a truly amazing achievement,” said François Auque, Head of Space Systems.
The Rosetta mission will help scientists to understand how our solar system formed from primordial matter some 4.6 billion years ago. While the matter that ended up in the solar system’s planets has been transformed by solar radiation and geological processes, comets are “cosmic freezers” that have preserved this matter in its original state.
About Airbus Defence and Space
Airbus Defence and Space is prime contractor for Rosetta on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) since 1995.