Solar System

The International
Rosetta Mission @SSDC

Rosetta was approved as a Cornerstone Mission in ESA's Horizons 2000 Science Programme. It began its space activities on March 2004 when a European Ariane 5 rocket lifted off from Kourou in French Guiana.
The final destination of the mission is the periodic comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, that will be reached during 2014, after a 10-year journey, during which also the Earth, Mars and two asteroids (2687 Steins and 21 Lutetia) have been studied.
On 20th January 2014 Rosetta woke up and contacted its team on Earth after an hibernation lasted 31 months, during which also the communication systems were sleeping.
The mission is composed by an orbiter and a lander (Philae) with several instruments designed to deeply study the comet and its environment.
The Rosetta orbiter is a large aluminium box with dimensions 2.8 x 2.1 x 2.0 metres. The scientific instruments are mounted on the 'top' of the box (Payload Support Module) while the subsystems are on the 'base' (Bus Support Module).
Philae is the 100-kilogram Rosetta lander provided by a European consortium under the leadership of the German Aerospace Research Institute (DLR).
Once the orbiter is aligned correctly, in November 2014 the lander will be commanded to self-eject from the main spacecraft and unfold its three legs, ready for a gentle touchdown at the end of the ballistic descent.
The minimum mission target is one week, but surface operations may continue for many months.

SSDC contribution

Data from the following instruments, with strong Italian participation, are available at SSDC:
  • GIADA - dust and coma analyser
  • OSIRIS - visible camera
  • VIRTIS - Vis/NIR imaging spectrometer
The SSDC aims at providing data access and visualization, mainly through MATISSE (Multi-purposed Advanced Tool for the Instruments of the Solar System Exploration) and the intelligent archive connected with it.
At present a prototype version of MATISSE is available online: the tool is still under development, and up to now is supported by a searchable database.

GIADA (Grain Impact Analyser and Dust Accumulator) is an instrument with different units, each devoted to different goals.
GIADA 1 will measure momentum, scalar velocity and mass of single grains coming from both the comet, using a Grain Detection System and an Impact Sensor.
GIADA 2 is the main electronic unit, GIADA 3 will measure the cumulative dust flux by means of five Quartz Crystal Microbalances covering the great part of the solid angle.

Principal Investigator: Alessandra Rotundi, Università degli Studi di Napoli "Parthenope", Naples, Italy.

External sites: ESA, INAF-OACN

OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic and Infrared Remote Imaging System) is the main scientific imaging system on the orbiter.
The NAC (Narrow Angle Camera) is designed to obtain high resolution images of the surface of the nucleus through 12 discrete filters over the wavelength range from 250 to 1000 nm at an angular resolution of 18.6 microrad/px.
The WAC (Wide Angle Camera) is optimised to provide images of the near nucleus environment in 14 discrete filters (240-720 nm) at an angular resolution of 101 microrad/px.
Both cameras are equipped with 2048 x 2048 pixel CCD detectors, and have an off-axis optical configuration.

Principal Investigator: Holger Sierks, Max-Planck-Institut fur Sonnensystemforschung, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany.

External sites: ESA, MPS

VIRTIS (Visibile and Infrared Thermal Imagig Spectrometer) is an imaging spectrometer combining two channels devoted to spectral mapping and one to spectroscopy.

The two spectral mapper channels are the Visible (from 0.25 to 1 micron and 2 nm of maximum spectral resolution) and the Infrared (from 1 to 5 microns and 10 nm of maximum spectral resolution) ones.
The spectroscopic channel ranges from 2 to 5 microns with 3 nm of maximum spectral resolution.

Principal Investigator: Fabrizio Capaccioni, Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali, Rome, Italy.

External sites: ESA, INAF-IAPS