Out of this world….Space Exploration comes to Chelmsford
2 December 2014 by Lucinda Stacey
For those avid space fans, the recent landing of the Rosetta space probe on comet 67p/Churyumov-Gerasimenko represents over a decade of hard work. This significant achievement of the Rosetta becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a comet’s nucleus came after it was launched back in 2004. The great event occurred after the potential landing site was identified in September for the spacecraft’s lander, Philae. This marvellous feat has made Rosetta the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet, escort it as it orbits the sun, and deploy a lander on its surface.
More excitingly for those of us who are familiar with Chelmsford, the high performance technology company, e2v, provided image sensors which were produced at its facilities in Chelmsford and Grenoble. e2v has a long heritage of providing imaging technology for over 150 space missions which include the upgrade of the Hubble space telescope, the Mars Curiosity rover, Gaia and Kepler. For the current Rosetta mission, e2v produced high resolution imaging cameras, navigation cameras and a Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer which maps and studies the nature of the solids and the temperature on the surface of the comet. Additionally for Philae, e2v provided Comet nucleus Infrared and Visible Analysers which consists of six identical micro-cameras that take panoramic pictures of the surface of the comet and the Rosetta Lander Imaging System. This is a CCD camera used to obtain high-resolution images during the descent of the lander and take stereo panoramic images of areas sampled by other instruments.
Marc Saunders who is President of Space Imaging made the following comment: “Only a few months ago we were celebrating the arrival of Rosetta at comet 67p and delighting in the magnificent images being sent back from our image sensors in the OSIRIS camera…We are at the forefront of engineering for space science and are proud to be playing a part in uncovering more about the origins of comets.”
Even though there was initial disappointment at the Philae landers eventful landing, with Philae coming to rest where the solar panels cannot recharge, there is still optimism that life will return to Philae. As the comet enters its summer and gets closer to the sun, the hope is that the extra sunlight will mean that it will recharge and that scientists will then be able to operate it once more. With the Rosetta space craft also planned to stay on its mission in the comet’s orbit until next December, there are exciting times ahead.
Instead of scientists resting on their laurels of this achievement, there are already plans to send a future comet lander into space. Whether is it one such as the Comet Hopper designed to move around comets (which made it to the latter rounds of NASA selections in 2012) or an even more advanced project looking to bring comet samples back to earth, remains to be seen. Whatever does come next though, Rosetta should make sure that it has a very hard act to follow.
Whilst the success of this mission, with E2v and its team of leading scientists and engineers at the forefront, was the focal point for onlookers, it is fundamental to consider the need to ensure that Intellectual Property rights are correctly secured. It is important for any company to ensure that they have exclusive rights to their design. If you would like advice regarding your company’s Intellectual Property, please contact our Corporate Commercial Department on 01245 584515 or [email protected]
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