The European Space Agency (ESA) is launching a public competition to find the most suitable names for its four Cluster II space weather satellites. The quartet, which are currently known as flight models (FM) 5, 6, 7 and 8, are scheduled for launch from Baikonur Space Centre in Kazakhstan in June and July 2000.

Professor Roger Bonnet, ESA Director of Science Programme, announced the competition for the first time to the European Delegations on the occasion of the Science Programme Committee (SPC) meeting held in Paris on 21-22 February 2000.

The competition is open to people of all the ESA member states (*). Each entry should include a set of FOUR names (places, people, or things from history, mythology, or fiction, but NOT living persons). Contestants should also describe in a few sentences why their chosen names would be appropriate for the four Cluster II satellites. The winners will be those which are considered most suitable and relevant for the Cluster II mission. The names must not have been used before on space missions by ESA, other space organizations or individual countries. One winning entry per country will be selected to go to the Finals of the competition. The prize for each national winner will be an invitation to attend the first Cluster II launch event in mid-June 2000 with their family (4 persons) in a 3-day trip (including excursions to tourist sites) to one of these ESA establishments:

  • ESRIN (near Rome, Italy): winners from France, Ireland, United Kingdom, Belgium.
  • VILSPA (near Madrid, Spain): winners from The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland.
  • ESTEC (near Amsterdam, The Netherlands): winners from Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria.
  • ESOC (in the Rhine Valley, Germany): winners from Italy, Spain , Portugal.

During the first Cluster II launch event (June 2000) the chosen four names for the spacecraft will be announced. The grand prize will be:

  • a trip for the winner and family (4 people) to Paris (including a social event) in early Autumn 2000.
  • a plaque for the winner.
  • a plaque and a special edition Cluster II scale model donated to the home town of the winner.

The 14 runners-up – the best entries from each ESA member state – will also receive awards. In addition, all entrants will receive a Cluster II poster.

Entries can be submitted by: – Email:

– Normal mail to: ìName the Cluster Quartetî, Science Programme Communication Service, SCI-MC, ESA ñ ESTEC, Postbus 299, 2200 AG Noordwijk ZH , The Netherlands

Mailed entries must be postmarked no later than 10 May, 2000. The winners will be notified by letter in late May, 2000.

(*) Participants must be nationals of one of the ESA member states

Cluster II ñ the spacecraft and the mission in brief

Cluster II is one of ESA’s top priority Cornerstone science missions. It is a replacement for the original Cluster mission, which was tragically destroyed by an explosion during the maiden launch of the Ariane 5 rocket in June 1996.

Cluster II is scheduled for launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in the summer of 2000. The four satellites will be put into orbit in pairs, using two Soyuz rockets provided by the Russian-French Starsem company, on 15 June and 13 July. They will then follow highly elliptical, polar orbits which will vary between 19,000 and 119,000 km above the Earth. At times, they will be inside the protection of the magnetosphere, while at others they will be fully exposed to the supersonic solar wind.

The four identical spacecraft will investigate the changing space weather around our planet in unprecedented detail. In order to achieve this, each spacecraft carries an identical set of 11 instruments, provided by scientific institutions in different countries. These will measure charged particles, magnetic and electrical fields in near-Earth space, providing the first three-dimensional snapshots of this ever-changing environment.

Each cylindrical Cluster II spacecraft, which measures 2.9 metres in diameter and 1.3 metres in height, weighs 1.2 tonnes when it is fully fuelled. Large amounts of fuel are required in order to place the satellites in the correct polar orbits and to enable them to manoeuvre in space.

71 kg of each spacecraftís mass is allocated to the scientific payload. Most of the science instruments are attached to the main drum-shaped body of the satellite, but the Cluster II spacecraft also carries two 5 metre-long experiment booms, four 50 metre-long wire booms, and two antenna booms.

Scientific institutions and industrial enterprises in almost all of the 14 ESA member states and the United States have participated in the Cluster II project. Working to strict deadlines, ESA and its European industrial partners, under the leadership of German Prime Contractor Dornier Satellite Systems, have successfully constructed and tested the Cluster II quartet in less than three years.

At the same time, the European ground segment for the mission has been prepared to receive and process the vast amount of data ñ equivalent to 290 million printed pages ñ that will be returned to Earth over the missionís two year lifetime. Signals to and from the spacecraft will be sent via a 15 metre antenna located at Villafranca in Spain and processed at the European Space Operations Control Centre (ESOC) at Darmstadt, Germany.

The Joint Science Operations Centre at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK will co-ordinate the scientific investigations. Its main task will be to combine all of the demands from the 11 science instrument teams into an overall plan. The stream of information returned by the 44 instruments will be distributed to eight national data centres, six in Europe, one in the USA and one in China.

Paying tribute to everyone who has put so much effort into achieving the remarkable revival of the Cluster mission, Project Manager John Ellwood said, ìIn the past two and a half years, a tremendous amount of work has been completed by both scientists and industry. It has been a fantastic achievement to build four satellites in such a short time.î

ìEverything is on schedule for the two launches of Cluster II in mid-2000,î he added. “We are confident that this tremendously exciting mission will provide spectacular new insights into the interaction between the Sun and our Earth.î

For more information please contact:
ESA ñ Communication Department
Media Relations Office
Tel: +33(0)
Fax: +33(0)

John Ellwood, Cluster II Project Manager
ESA ñ Estec (The Netherlands)
Tel: + 31 (0)71 565 3507

Dr Philippe Escoubet, Cluster II Project Scientist
ESA ñ Estec (The Netherlands)
Tel: + 31 (0)71 565 3454