Rosetta, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) interplanetary probe built
with the contribution of Alenia Spazio, has been presented today to
the international scientific community and the Italian press at the
Finmeccanica company’s plant in Turin.

Once its integration is finished at Alenia Spazio in Turin, the probe
will leave Italy definitively, around the middle of November, for the
ESTEC Centre in The Netherlands where it will undergo the environmental
test campaign. After that, it will proceed to Kourou, French Guyana,
for the launch in January 2003 on an Ariane 5. Nine years later, the
probe will make a close encounter with Comet 46P/Wirtanen.

Once it reaches the comet, Rosetta, named after the famous stone that
led to the deciphering of the mysterious hieroglyphics, will, for about
two years, make a detailed map of Wirtanen’s nucleus and observe its
chemical-physical variations during one of its periodic visits to the
Solar System.

In particular, Rosetta will analyse the dust and gas emissions and
determine their chemical and isotopic composition. It will also provide
scientific data by analysing samples lifted directly from the comet
thanks to the Lander carried on the probe which will be able to land
and remain attached to the comet’s nucleus.

However, to reach the comet, Rosetta will have to make a trip of 115
months, in 80 of which it will be in “hibernation” and will be awakened
only to make close observations of the asteroids Otawara, in 2006, and
Siwa, in 2008.

At launch Rosetta will weigh a total of 3000 kg and will carry
technologically advanced equipment and an equally advanced scientific
payload. Among the instruments to which Italy has made a significant
contribution are the VIRTIS optic and infrared spectrometer and the
GIADA dust analyser. Given that the probe will have to operate a great
distance from the Sun, it will also carry special solar cells designed
to guarantee operational autonomy and the possibility to work
efficiently at very low temperatures and solar radiation.

Alenia Spazio is participating in the Rosetta programme, led by Astrium
from Germany, as main contractor for the assembly, integration and
testing of the satellite and for the definition and procurement of the
MGSE and EGSE ground support equipment.

The Italian company is also responsible for the construction of the
satellite transponder operating in the S and X bands.

[NOTE: Images supporting this release are available at (87KB)
and (67KB)]