Rosetta: close orbits to lander deployment (annotated)


Animation showing Rosetta’s orbit in the lead up to, during and after lander separation.

The animation begins on 1 October 2014, when Rosetta is orbiting about 19 km from Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (all distances refer to the comet’s centre). The animation shows the transition to the close 10 km orbit by mid-October, and then the steps taken to move onto the pre-separation trajectory.

On the day of landing, 12 November, Rosetta makes a further manoeuvre 2–3 hours before separation to move to 22.5 km from the comet centre to deploy the lander, Philae. While Philae descends to the surface over a period of seven hours, Rosetta makes another manoeuvre to maintain visibility with the lander. A series of ‘relay phase’ manoeuvres then move Rosetta out to a distance of about 50 km, before moving first to a 30 km orbit and later to an orbit at about 20 km by early December.

The speed of the animation slows during the separation and lander phase to better highlight these events. The comet shape and rate of rotation is real – the comet rotates with a period of about 12.4 hours.

Credits: ESA

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  1. its crazy to think that out there is a big old chunk of rock wizzing through space with a weird little alien machine hovering around it like a fly thats being controlled who knows how many kilometers away on a planet inhabited by a bunch of intelligent creatures.

  2. As a visual learner I really loved this! I wish you would do more graphics that shows Rosetta's position related to Earth and other planets. The perspective is so cool. Amazing accomplishment guys and girls!

  3. How the flying f**k is that even possible. So impressive!! Also… How can we be orbiting something with so incredibly low gravity pull that the lander even bounced two times before landing?

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