Airbus Defence and Space

Exploring the universe Press releases

Airbus Defence and Space: success for Rosetta!

- Rosetta’s Philae lander touched down on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko travelling at 66,300 km per hour
- Airbus Defence and Space is prime contractor for Rosetta on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) since 1995

Today at 17:03 PM (CET), the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt reported a successful landing, announcing: “Philae has landed!”. Some seven hours before, the Philae lander had detached from the Rosetta spacecraft – developed and built for the European Space Agency (ESA) by Airbus Defence and Space, the world’s second largest space company, as prime contractor – to begin its slow descent towards the surface of the comet. Airbus Defence and Space supported Philae´s team with electrical design, integration, testing and construction of the landing gear.

Travelling at a speed of one metre per second, the three-legged lander landed successfully in the target area. On Earth, Philae weighs in at around 100 kg; on the comet, less than 2g. To stop itself from rebounding off the comet’s surface, Philae has a complex landing system with a damper, and dug itself in using two harpoons and three ice screws. Equipped with 10 scientific instruments, Philae is now ready to start its scientific work, having already gathered initial data during its descent. It is relaying data 490 million kilometres back to Earth via Rosetta.

“Philae’s successful landing tops off an already spectacular Rosetta mission. We at Airbus Defence and Space are extremely proud to have contributed to the Rosetta success story with our innovative concepts and designs, robust and reliable systems, and the dedicated work of employees both at Airbus Defence and Space and at all the other partners in the industrial consortium and ESA. This is a world first – landing on a comet travelling at 66,300 km per hour after a 10 year journey through our solar system, it is a truly amazing achievement,” said François Auque, Head of Space Systems.

The Rosetta mission will help scientists to understand how our solar system formed from primordial matter some 4.6 billion years ago. While the matter that ended up in the solar system’s planets has been transformed by solar radiation and geological processes, comets are “cosmic freezers” that have preserved this matter in its original state.

 

About Rosetta and Philae

Rosetta is an ESA mission with contribution from its member states and NASA. Airbus Defence and Space has been ESA’s prime industrial contractor for the Rosetta orbiter since 1995 (after having been part of the first studies since 1986) and led a consortium consisting of 96 companies from 16 countries. Rosetta is host to eleven instruments to analyse the comet and its tails close up when both get closer to the Sun next year and the comet becomes active. Rosetta’s Philae lander was developed by a consortium led by the space agencies from Germany (DLR), France (CNES) and Italy (ASI), as well as the MPS (Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung), and has a further 10 instruments on board.

 

About Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space is a division of Airbus Group formed by combining the business activities of Cassidian, Astrium and Airbus Military. The new division is Europe’s number one defence and space enterprise, the second largest space business worldwide and among the top ten global defence enterprises. It employs some 40,000 employees generating revenues of approximately €14 billion per year.

Press contacts:

Astrid Emerit               + 33 1 39 06 89 43                  astrid.emerit@astrium.eads.net

Jeremy Close             + 44 14 38 77 38 72                jeremy.close@astrium.eads.net

Gregory Gavroy         + 33 1 39 06 89 42                  gregory.gavroy@astrium.eads.net

Ralph Heinrich            + 49 89 607 33971                  ralph.heinrich@astrium.eads.net

Mathias Pikelj              + 49 75 45 89 123                   mathias.pikelj@astrium.eads.net

Francisco Lechón       + 34 91 586 37 41                   francisco.lechon@astrium.eads.net

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