Sunday, June 21, 2015

Philae Lander Phones Home Again

ESA's cartoon showing Philae's waking up. Credit: ESA

The team at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) received data from the Philae lander for the third time on 19 June 2015. Between 15:20 and 15:39 CEST, Philae sent 185 data packets. "Among other things, we have received updated status information," says Michael Maibaum, a systems engineer at the DLR Lander Control Center (LCC) in Cologne and Deputy Operations Manager. "At present, the lander is operating at a temperature of zero degrees Celsius, which means that the battery is now warm enough to store energy. This means that Philae will also be able to work during the comet's night, regardless of solar illumination."

In the 19 minutes of transmission, the lander sent data recorded last week; from this, the engineers determined that the amount of sunlight has increased: "More solar panels were illuminated; at the end of contact, four of Philae's panels were receiving energy," Maibaum adds. There were a number of interruptions in the connection, but it was otherwise stable over a longer period for the first time. “The contact has confirmed that Philae is doing very well.”

“We are very happy to have received signals from the lander again, and we are all working hard towards establishing a robust link between Rosetta and Philae,” comments Patrick Martin, ESA Rosetta mission manager.

The lander had already reported from the comet twice after its seven-month hibernation; it sent data on 13 and 14 June 2015. The analysis by the DLR team at the LCC was clear – Philae has managed to survive the icy temperatures on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko – temperature and energy values show that the lander is now operational. In the first two contacts, it sent stored data from early May.

"Philae was already awake at this time, but could not contact us," explains DLR's Philae Project Manager, Stephan Ulamec.

Now, the trajectory of the Rosetta orbiter around the comet is being modified to optimise the possibility for renewed contact, to allow the orbiter to act as a relay between Philae and Earth. 

"However, we need a long and stable contact time to conduct research with Philae again as planned," says Maibaum. If these conditions are met, the 10 instruments on board Philae could once again be operated from the LCC.

Credit: DLRESA

No comments:

Post a Comment