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Preparing for Liftoff

Aeolus sets sail

15 Jun 2018, 14:11 UTC
Aeolus sets sail
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Today is Global Wind Day, which couldn’t be more apt for ESA’s Aeolus wind satellite to begin its voyage to the launch site in French Guiana. And, while almost all satellites journey by aircraft, Aeolus is different, it’s going by ship.
Aeolus waiting to board (Credits: ESA–G. Labruyere)
Scheduled to liftoff on a Vega rocket on 21 August at 21:20 GMT (23:20 CEST) from Europe’s spaceport near Kourou, Aeolus carries one of the most sophisticated instruments ever to be put into orbit.
This pioneering mission uses powerful laser technology that probes the lowermost 30 km of our atmosphere to yield vertical profiles of the wind and information on aerosols and clouds.
Since the instrument is sensitive to pressure change, ESA and Airbus Defence and Space engineers decided that the safest way for it to journey from France, where it has been going through testing, to French Guiana would be by ship.

Going by ship may seem a little strange, after all it will take around 12 days to get there instead of a matter of hours, but if, for whatever reason, the aircraft had to descend rapidly and there was a sudden increase in air pressure, Aeolus’ instrument could be ...

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