Following its successful launch from Kourou on 19 December, the Gaia astrometry satellite is continuing on its way to its final orbital position around the L2 Lagrange point – a gravitationally stable virtual position, 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. It is expected to arrive at its destination on 14 January following two injection manoeuvres; the first of which went according to plan on 7 January. The second and final manoeuvre is scheduled for Tuesday 14 January. Satellite functionality is being tested throughout this cruise phase. All on board parameters are currently nominal.
Another important achievement was made on 8 January when Gaia detected its first stars (18,000 in less than 3 hours!). The satellite was operating in near-operational mode for the first time, although attitude system control and optical system calibration is yet to be finely tuned.
Some members of the Airbus Defence and Space team who designed and built Gaia for ESA will remain at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt (Allemagne) to monitor daily operations until in-orbit acceptance at the end of May.