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ESA launches first Earth Explorer mission GOCE
Date:3/17/2009

This afternoon, the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) was lofted into a near-Sun-synchronous, low Earth orbit by a Rockot launcher lifting off from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia.

With this launch, a new chapter in the history of Earth observation in Europe has begun. GOCE is the first of a new family of ESA satellites designed to study our planet and its environment in order to enhance our knowledge and understanding of Earth-system processes and their evolution, to enable us to address the challenges of global climate change. In particular, GOCE will measure the minute differences in the Earth's gravity field around the globe.

The Russian Rockot launcher, derived from a converted ballistic missile, lifted off at 15:21 CET (14:21 GMT) and flew northward over the Arctic. About 90 minutes later, after one orbital revolution and two Breeze-KM upper-stage burns, the 1052 kg spacecraft was successfully released into a circular polar orbit at 280 km altitude with 96.7 inclination to the Equator. The launch was procured from Eurockot Launch Services, a German/Russian company based in Bremen, Germany.

Contact with GOCE was established via ESA's tracking station in Kiruna, Sweden, shortly after separation. The spacecraft is now under the control of ESA's teams at its European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

"GOCE is ESA's first science satellite dedicated to Earth observation since Envisat in 2002. The size has changed, but the rationale remains the same: to provide the best science our technology can deliver for the maximum benefit of the science community and ultimately the citizens of Europe and the world," said Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA Director General.

GOCE was selected in 1999 as the first Earth Explorer Core Mission under ESA's Living Planet Programme. The satellite was developed by an industrial team led
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Contact: Franco Bonacina
franco.bonacina@esa.int
33-153-697-299
European Space Agency
Source:Eurekalert

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