With less than two years remaining before launch, engineers at Alenia
Spazio in Turin were eagerly awaiting yesterday’s delivery of the Rosetta
Orbiter flight structure.

Now that the box-shaped, metal skeleton of the spacecraft is safely in place, work can begin on assembly, integration and testing of ESA’s comet chaser.

Cocooned in its protective container, the lorry trailer bearing the precious flight structure left the Patria-Finavitec plant in Halli (Finland) on 13 January and spent the next five days meandering southwards across Europe.

Illuminated by flashing lights, the lorry (sometimes accompanied by a police escort) was ferried to northern Germany before undertaking the 1000 km trek through Germany and Austria, finally entering Italy over the Brenner Pass.

With delivery at the Turin plant of Alenia Spazio now safely accomplished, the 250 Kg structure will be unloaded and moved to a giant clean room. After some preliminary tests, it will be separated into its two component sections – the Payload Module (supporting all scientific instruments) and Service Module (supporting all units necessary to control the whole spacecraft).

Over the coming weeks, engineers will integrate the Orbiter’s propellant tanks, fit their thermal blankets and install the complex plumbing for the reaction control system.

Meanwhile, the EQM (Electrical Qualification Model) programme continues apace. The EQM Payload Module and Service Module have recently been mated once more, ready for mechanical integration with the Rosetta Lander. This will be followed by the remaining integrated system tests on the spacecraft and its payloads, and preparations for an electromagnetic compatibility test towards the end of February.