The launch of the European Herschel-Planck astronomy mission using the Ariane 5 launch system in Kourou (French Guiana) is scheduled for 16 April 2009. It will be the last cornerstone mission of the Horizon 2000 programme drawn up by the European Space Agency (ESA) in 1984. Herschel will be the first space observatory to cover the whole spectral range from far infrared (FIR) to the sub-millimetre waveband (from 60 to 670 microns). After the launch, the observatory will travel 1.5 million kilometres to be injected into orbit around the second Lagrangian point (L2, a point located around 1.5 million kilometres beyond the Earth's orbit, where the gravitational forces of the Earth and the Sun are balanced out) of the Earth-Sun system. This is a particularly favourable position, as there is minimal interference from infrared radiation coming from the Sun and the Earth.