Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Coolest Spacecraft Ever In Orbit Around L2 (-273 Degrees Celsius)

Date:
July 4, 2009
Source:
European Space Agency
Summary:
On July 2 the detectors of Planck's High Frequency Instrument reached their amazingly low operational temperature of -273°C, making them the coldest known objects in space. The spacecraft has also just entered its final orbit around the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system, L2.

This artist's impression shows the focal plane unit of the Planck telescope. Planck's instruments will operate at a few degrees above absolute zero. To achieve this, a series of cooling stages are required. Without any additional cooling, the spacecraft itself can passively cool to around 50 K (about -223ēC).
Credit: ESA/AOES Medialab

On July 2 the detectors of Planck's High Frequency Instrument reached their amazingly low operational temperature of -273°C, making them the coldest known objects in space. The spacecraft has also just entered its final orbit around the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system, L2. Planck is equipped with a passive cooling system that brings its temperature down to about -230°C by radiating heat into space. Three active coolers take over from there, and bring the temperature down further to an amazing low of -273.05°C, only 0.1°C above absolute zero - the coldest temperature theoretically possible in our Universe.

Such low temperatures are necessary for Planck’s detectors to study the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), the first light released by the universe only 380 000 yrs after the Big Bang, by measuring its temperature across the sky.

Like measuring the heat of a rabbit on the Moon

The detectors will look for variations in the temperature of the CMB that are about a million times smaller than one degree – this is comparable to measuring from Earth the heat produced by a rabbit sitting on the Moon. This is why the detectors must be cooled to temperatures close to absolute zero (–273.15°C, or zero Kelvin, 0K).

Details on the different stages of the cool-down process are available via the 'Planck in depth' link at right.

Arriving at L2

Starting at 13:15 CEST July 2, the Planck Mission Control Team conducted a crucial orbit insertion manoeuvre designed to place the satellite into its final orbit about L2.

Once commanded, the burn was auto-controlled by Planck, with the thrusters operating for between 12 and 24 hours. The manoeuvre directed the satellite into its final operational orbit around the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system, L2.

The thruster burn was planned to deliberately under-perform by a small margin, necessitating a small 'touch up' manoeuvre in the coming days to bring the satellite fully onto its planned trajectory.

"While this manoeuvre itself is routine, it represents the final major step in the long voyage to L2, and everyone here is quite happy to see Planck getting into its operational orbit," said Chris Watson, Spacecraft Operations Manager, speaking in the mission's Dedicated Control Room at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany.

The manoeuvre was planned to change the satellite’s speed by 211.6 km/hour, ending with a final speed of 1010 Km/hour with respect to the ground. Together with Earth and the virtual point L2, Planck will then be orbiting the Sun at a speed of 106 254 km/hour (29.5 km/second).

At the start of yesterday’s manoeuvre, Planck was located 1.43 million km from Earth.

Science operations to begin soon

All commissioning activities are on schedule, and this phase of the mission is practically complete. Over the next few weeks, the operation of the instruments will be fine-tuned for best performance.

Planck will begin to survey the sky in mid-August.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Space Agency. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Space Agency. "Coolest Spacecraft Ever In Orbit Around L2 (-273 Degrees Celsius)." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090703142158.htm>.
European Space Agency. (2009, July 4). Coolest Spacecraft Ever In Orbit Around L2 (-273 Degrees Celsius). ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090703142158.htm
European Space Agency. "Coolest Spacecraft Ever In Orbit Around L2 (-273 Degrees Celsius)." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090703142158.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) — NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX on Tuesday to build America's next spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017, opening the way to a new chapter in human spaceflight. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — Numerous residents along the East Coast reported seeing a bright meteor flash through the sky Sunday night. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins