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September launch for ESA's gravity mission GOCE
Date:5/27/2008

A new launch date has been set for GOCE. The change of date is due to precautionary measures taken after the malfunction of an upper-stage section of a Russian Proton launcher. Now confirmed not to affect GOCE's Rockot launcher, the most advanced gravity mission to date is scheduled for lift-off on 10 September 2008.

As a consequence of the new launch date, the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite is currently undergoing final flight reconfiguration at ESA-ESTEC in the Netherlands. Shipment to the Plesetsk launch site in northern Russia will take place in July - from where the sleek five-metre long GOCE spacecraft will be carried into its unusually low orbit on a modified SS-19 Russian Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) launcher. The adaptation of the SS-19, called 'Rockot', uses the two original lower stages of the ICBM in conjunction with an upper-stage called Breeze-KM for commercial payloads.

Up until early March this year, GOCE was well on its way to being launched at the end of May. However, as a result of the failure on 15 March of a Proton Breeze-M upper-stage, all launches using Breeze were suspended pending investigations by the Russian State Commission. Although GOCE's Breeze-KM upper-stage is different to the larger Proton Breeze-M, they do share some common elements. The investigations have led to the conclusion that it is safe to use the Breeze-KM as is, resulting in the Russian State Commission clearing GOCE for launch.

Since August last year, the high-tech GOCE spacecraft has been undergoing extensive testing at ESA's test facilities in the Netherlands. The programme included a wide range of qualification tests to ensure that the satellite could withstand the rigours of launch as well as the harsh environment of space. One such series of tests was carried out in the Large Space Simulator where, under vacuum, the extreme heat of the Sun is simulated by lamps and mirrors
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Contact: Danilo Muzi
danilo.muzi@esa.int
31-715-654-932
European Space Agency
Source:Eurekalert

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