Overview / Data
Europe`s comet chaser
Mission Rosetta

Rosetta at a glance - technical data and timeline

Rosetta - mission to study a comet in detail


The European Space Agency (ESA) approves the Rosetta mission:

November 1993

Original launch date:
(to comet 46P/Wirtanen;
postponed due to technical problems
with the launcher)
Beginning of 2003
Launch of Rosetta to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko: 2 March 2004, 08:17 CET
1st Earth gravity assist: 4 March 2005
Mars gravity assist: 25 February 2007
2nd Earth gravity assist: 13 November 2007
Asteroid Steins flyby: 5 September 2008
3rd  Earth gravity assist: 13 November 2009
Asteroid Lutetia flyby: 10 July 2010
Enter deep space hibernation: 8 June 2011
Exit deep space hibernation: 20 January 2014, 10:00 GMT
Major comet rendezvous manoeuvre: May 2014
Arrive at comet: 6 August 2014
Philae lander delivery: 12 November 2014
Perihelion passage
(Closest approach to Sun):
13 August 2015
Mission end: 31 December 2015



Launch date: 2 March 2004, 08:17 CET
Launch site: Kourou, French Guiana
Launcher: Ariane 5 G
Mission duration: 12 years in total, until December 2015
Mission Control Centre: European Space Operations Center (ESOC), Darmstadt
Philae Lander Control Centre: DLR Microgravity User Support Centre, Cologne
Ground stations: Perth, Australia and Kourou, French Guiana
Launch mass: 3000 kilograms
Fuel: 1670 kilograms
Science payload: 165 kilograms


Rosetta orbiter

Orbiter dimensions: 2.8 x 2.1 x 2.0 metres
Solar panel dimensions: Two panels, each 14 metres long; total surface area of 64 square metres
Power via solar panels: 850 W at 3.4 AU*, 395 W at 5.25 AU*
(* AU = Astronomical Unit = roughly the distance from Earth to the Sun)
Communications antenna: Two-axis steerable high-gain antenna, 2.2 metres in diameter


Instruments on the orbiter (11)

ALICE: imaging ultraviolet spectrometer to analyse the composition of the comet's nucleus, coma and ion tail.
CONSERT (COmet Nucleus Sounding Experiment by Radio wave Transmission): transmits long-wave radio signals through the comet's nucleus to explore its structure.
COSIMA (COmetary Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer): mass spectrometer that collects cometary dust grains and analyses their chemical composition.
GIADA (Grain Impact Analyser and Dust Accumulator): determines the number, size and speed of the dust grains in the coma.
MIDAS (Micro-Imaging Dust Analysis System): high-resolution scanning probe microscope that studies the fine structure of the dust particles around the asteroids and comet.
MIRO (Microwave Spectrometer for the Rosetta Orbiter): microwave instrument for determining the composition of the core and coma, as well as for measuring cometary activity and determining physical properties of the surface of the nucleus (temperature) and coma molecules (density, temperature, and velocity).
OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic, and InfraRed Remote Imaging System): a telephoto and wide-angle camera that will acquire high-resolution images in different spectral bands for the characterisation of the nucleus and its surroundings.
ROSINA (Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis): the instrument consists of two mass spectrometers and a pressure sensor and determines the chemical composition of the coma, the isotope ratios and the temperature and speed of the gas molecules.
RPC (Rosetta Plasma Consortium): comprises ion and electron detectors and a magnetometer to measure physical properties of the nucleus and coma as well as the interaction of the coma and tail with the solar wind.
RSI (Radio Science Investigation): uses the spacecraft communication system to determine the gravitational field, the comet size, mass and shape, as well as the structure of the nucleus.
VIRTIS (Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer): imaging spectrometer that measures the composition and temperature of the surface and the characteristics of the gas molecules in the coma.


Philae lander

Weight: 100 kilograms
Data transmission: 16 kilobytes per second via the orbiter
Energy supply: Solar generator, 4 Watts, primary (for the first 60 hours after the landing on the comet) and secondary (rechargeable) batteries


Instruments on the lander (10)

APXS (Alpha-Particle-X-Ray-Spectrometer): spectrometer for analysing the chemical composition of matter directly on the comet's surface.
CIVA (Comet Infrared and Visible Analyzer): photographs the landing site and examines the samples of the comet’s surface acquired with the SD2 drill through microscopes.
CONSERT (Comet Nucleus Sounding Experiment by Radio wave Transmission): radio wavelength probe for the screening of the nucleus in conjunction with the orbiter.
COSAC (Cometary Sampling and Composition): determines the elementary, isotopic and chemical composition of the frozen components of the comet’s surface to a depth of 30 centimetres.
MUPUS (Multi-Purpose Sensors for Surface and Subsurface Science): several sensors measure the surface temperature and thermal conductivity of the ground.
PTOLEMY: an evolved gas analyser, which obtains accurate measurements of isotopic ratios of light elements.
ROLIS (Rosetta Lander Imaging System): panoramic camera to photograph the landing site during and after Philae's landing phase.
ROMAP (Rosetta Lander Magnetometer and Plasmamonitor): studies the magnetic field of the comet and the comet/solar-wind interaction.
SD2 (Sample, Drill and Distribution): drilling mechanism for obtaining samples at a depth of up to 30 centimetres.
SESAME (Surface Electric Sounding and Acoustic Monitoring Experiment): comprises sensors for measuring the acoustic and dielectric characteristics of the nucleus as well as a particle impact monitor.


Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko


Kuiper Belt object moving in an elliptical orbit around the Sun between Jupiter and
Earth; belongs to the Jupiter family of comets.

Year of discovery: 1969

K. Churyumov, University of Kiev, Ukraine
S. Gerasimenko, Institute of Astrophysics, Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

First images of comet nucleus: Acquired on 12 March 2003 by the Hubble Space Telescope; they show an oval body roughly 3 by 5 kilometres.
Mean diameter of nucleus: 4 kilometres
Orbital period around the Sun: 6.45 years
Minimum distance to the Sun (perihelion): 186 million kilometres (1.24 AU* )
Maximum distance from the Sun (aphelion): 857 million kilometres (5.68 AU* )
Orbital eccentricity: 0.64 (elliptical orbit)
Rotation period: 12.4 to 12.9 hours
Development of orbit: In 1840, the perihelion distance was 4 AU; a Jupiter flyby followed, decreasing the perihelion distance. By 1959, the perihelion distance was 2.7 AU; another Jupiter flyby in February 1959 reduced it further to today's value.
Albedo (reflectivity): 0.04 (very low, darker than coal).
Density of the surface material: 100 to 500 kilograms per cubic metre (comparable with a dry sponge).
Mass loss: During the perihelion pass on 13 August 2015, up to 300 kilograms of comet dust per second were swept to space by sublimating ice.

* AU = Astronomical Unit = roughly the distance from Earth to the Sun


Last modified:
21/09/2016 11:52:19



Dr.rer.nat. Ekkehard Kührt
German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Institute of Planetary Research, Asteroids and Comets

Tel.: +49 30 67055-514

Fax: +49 30 67055-340
Dr Stephan Ulamec
German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Microgravity User Support Center (MUSC), Space Operations and Astronaut Training

Tel.: +49 2203 601-4567
Elke Heinemann
German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Corporate Communications

Tel.: +49 2203 601-2867

Fax: +49 2203 601-3249