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April 11, 2006

Venus Express main engine burn ended


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Ground controllers at ESA’s European Spacecraft Operations Centre (ESOC) confirmed the end of the Venus Express main engine burn at 10:07 CEST today.

A few more automatic operations should now follow to reorient the spacecraft towards the Sun (so-called ‘sun acquisition mode’) and then have one of the spacecraft’s high gain antennas (the HGA 2) oriented towards Earth, ready to establish the first communication link with ground control.

At 09:45 CEST this morning, the Venus Express spacecraft disappeared as expected behind the planet disc. The spacecraft signal was lost for about 10 minutes. 

 

That phase started about 25 minutes after the beginning of the main engine burn and is known as ‘occultation’. Receiving the spacecraft signal after the occultation period was one of the first positive signs of successful orbit insertion. 

Ground controllers confirmed re-acquisition of the low-gain antenna signal from the Venus Express spacecraft at 09:57 CEST. This confirms that Venus Express has completed its slingshot around the planet at the expected velocity.

It was on 9 November last year that ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft lifted off from the desert of Kazakhstan onboard a Soyuz-Fregat rocket. Now, after having travelled 400 million kilometres in only about five months, the spacecraft has reached its final destination.

To begin to explore our Earth’s hot and hazy sister planet, Venus Express must  now complete this critical step, the most challenging one following launch.. The Venus Orbit Insertion (VOI) manoeuvre allows the spacecraft to reduce its speed relative to Venus, so that it can be captured by the planet’s gravitation.

Source: ESA

Live satellite coverage can be seen here:

Eutelsat Hot Bird 1 at 13 degrees east
Transponder 2
Polarisation: Vertical
Frequency: 11.242 MHz
SR=27500 MS/sec
FEC=3/4
Channel id ‘ESA’


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