I came across the press release a day or so ago and it made me smile…GOCE has completed its basic mission to map the geoid of the Earth.
What is nice is that I had a part to play in this, when I was working at QinetiQ, developing the ion thrusters for the mission.
One of the fears was always that the mission wouldn’t get off the ground…you know that dread that the rocket would fail or something would happen in one of the stage separations. Or the ion thrusters and the system wouldn’t work the way they should…or worse.
But as it happened everything worked brilliantly…almost flawlessly in fact.
And oddly enough, the mission launch was delayed for a day and then on March 17th 2009 up it went…
March 17th being of course St Patricks Day…so maybe there was a bit of Irish luck on our side…or that’s the way I’ll look at it!
One of the interesting outcomes was that the drag was less than expected, as in the atmosphere at around 250 km wasn’t as dense as modelled. So the ion thrusters weren’t really pushing the full envelope all the time.
The upside of this is that mission is going to run on for at least another year, collecting more data and giving scientists some cool new geoid maps to get excited about.
And giving more hours of flight heritage to the ion thrusters on board. Sounds like a Win Win!