ESA’s Swarm mission is ready for launch from Plesetsk, Russia on a Russian Rockot on 22 November at 12:02 GMT (13:02 CET). The three-satellite Swarm mission aims to unravel one of the most mysterious aspects of our planet: the magnetic field.
Media representatives are invited to follow the launch via ESA TV or ESA’s website or attend the main launch event at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
The magnetic field protects our planet from cosmic radiation and charged particles that bombard Earth in ‘solar winds’. Without this protective shield, the atmosphere as we know it would not exist, rendering life on Earth virtually impossible.
Strong solar storms have the potential to cause power and communications blackouts, and to damage satellites orbiting Earth. A visible display of what happens when charged particles collide with atoms and molecules in the upper atmosphere can be seen as waves of luminous green light in the polar skies – the auroras.
Earth’s magnetic field is in continuous flux. Magnetic north wanders and every few hundred thousand years the polarity flips, so that a compass would point south instead of north. The strength of the magnetic field constantly changes – and it is currently showing signs of significant weakening.
By analysing the different characteristics of the field, the mission will provide new insights into many natural processes, from those occurring deep inside the planet to weather in space caused by solar activity. In turn, this information will yield a better understanding of why the magnetic field is weakening.
Swarm’s measurements will also be used to improve the accuracy of navigation systems such as those carried on satellites. This will assist in improving earthquake prediction and increasing the efficiency of drilling for natural resources.
Swarm is ESA’s fourth Earth Explorer mission, following GOCE, SMOS and CryoSat.
In its observations of Earth’s magnetic field, Swarm will benefit from the data from ESA’s Cluster scientific mission, launched in 2000 and still operational. Cluster is studying conditions within Earth’s magnetosphere and its interaction with charged particles in the solar wind, using four satellites to map them in 3D over a range of scales.
Cluster’s satellites orbit at a distance of 10 000 km above Earth and thus provide complementary measurements to Swarm, which will operate at altitudes of up to 530 km.
ESA TV offers broadcasters extensive material on the Swarm mission and its preparation via special feeds from the Plesetsk cosmodrome before the launch, as well as a live launch transmission. Broadcasters can consult http://television.esa.int/ for the latest information.
The latest high-resolution images can be found by registering on ESA’s Photo Library for Professionals: http://www.esa-photolibrary.com/
Questions on images for media can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
For the latest news and information on this innovative mission, visit www.esa.int/swarm
Programme at ESOC
13:10–14:25Lunch break and interview opportunities
14:25–14:50Live coverage of satellite separation and acquisition of first signals
Please register by 15 November at: http://www.esa.int/Swarm_Launch_Event
Any last-minute change in the launch date will be announced as a recorded message at +49 (0)6151 90 2609 and on our website at: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/Swarm
For information on how to get to ESOC, please consult www.esa.int/esoc
About the European Space Agency
The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. It is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.
ESA has 20 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Den-mark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, of whom 18 are Member States of the EU.
ESA has Cooperation Agreements with eight other Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.
ESA is also working with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes.
By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.
ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.
Today, it launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space.
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