19. June 2015

Lan­der Con­trol Cen­ter in con­tact with Phi­lae once again

Con­trol cen­tre for Phi­lae – the Lan­der Con­trol Cen­ter at DLR
Image 1/2, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

Control centre for Philae – the Lander Control Center at DLR

The Lan­der Con­trol Cen­ter (LCC) at the Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (Deutsches Zen­trum für Luft- und Raum­fahrt; DLR) fa­cil­i­ty in Cologne is re­spon­si­ble for the com­mand­ing and op­er­a­tion of the Phi­lae lan­der.
Phi­lae on Comet 67P/Churyu­mov-Gerasi­menko
Image 2/2, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

Philae on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Few things could be more fas­ci­nat­ing or de­mand­ing in the his­to­ry of Eu­ro­pean space trav­el than the Roset­ta comet mis­sion. The lan­der, Phi­lae, will sep­a­rate from its par­ent craft on 11 Novem­ber 2014, touch down on the comet and im­me­di­ate­ly fire har­poons to an­chor it­self on the sur­face. The two space­craft will then ac­com­pa­ny the comet on its month-long jour­ney to the point at which it is clos­est to the Sun.

The team at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) received data from the Philae lander for the third time on 19 June 2015. Between 15:20 and 15:39 CEST, Philae sent 185 data packets. "Among other things, we have received updated status information," says Michael Maibaum, a systems engineer at the DLR Lander Control Center (LCC) in Cologne and Deputy Operations Manager. "At present, the lander is operating at a temperature of zero degrees Celsius, which means that the battery is now warm enough to store energy. This means that Philae will also be able to work during the comet's night, regardless of solar illumination." In the 19 minutes of transmission, the lander sent data recorded last week; from this, the engineers determined that the amount of sunlight has increased: "More solar panels were illuminated; at the end of contact, four of Philae's panels were receiving energy". There were a number of interruptions in the connection, but it was otherwise stable over a longer period for the first time. “The contact has confirmed that Philae is doing very well.”

The lander had already reported from the comet twice after its seven-month hibernation; it sent data on 13 and 14 June 2015. The analysis by the DLR team at the LCC was clear – Philae has managed to survive the icy temperatures on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko – temperature and energy values show that the lander is now operational. In the first two contacts, it sent stored data from early May. "Philae was already awake at this time, but could not contact us," explains DLR's Philae Project Manager, Stephan Ulamec. Now, the trajectory of the Rosetta orbiter around the comet is being modified to optimise the possibility for renewed contact, to allow the orbiter to act as a relay between Philae and Earth. "However, we need a long and stable contact time to conduct research with Philae again as planned," says Maibaum. If these conditions are met, the 10 instruments on board Philae could once again be operated from the LCC.

  • Manuela Braun
    Ed­i­tor HR
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Cen­tral HR Mar­ket­ing
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-3882
    Münchener Straße 20
    82234 Weßling
  • Stephan Ulamec
    Phi­lae Lan­der Project Man­ag­er
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Space Op­er­a­tions and As­tro­naut Train­ing
    Mi­cro­grav­i­ty Us­er Sup­port Cen­ter (MUSC)
    Münchener Straße 20
    82234 Weßling

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