News 2003



Membership of Working Groups updated
The list of members of the Gaia Working Groups has been updated to include new members and updates to members' details according to information provided during the past year. The updated lists can be consulted online (see the documents linked from the end of the
Gaia Working Groups page.)



Testing the high stability optics prototype
A prototype 'basic angle monitoring system' designed and constructed in a collaboration between EADS Astrium (Toulouse) and TNO TPD (Delft) will be subjected to a series of tests over the coming weeks. The tests are designed to verify that the system can be aligned with the required accuracy, that it can withstand the launch loads without damage or misalignment, and that it provides the thermal stability required for the in-orbit monitoring. For more on the tests se
e Picture of the week featuring the high stability optics prototype.



ESA's SPC endorses SSAC recommendations
The Science Programme Committee yesterday endorsed the reconstruction of ESA's science programme as recommended by the Space Science Advisory Committee in October. The reconstructed programme maintains the Gaia mission according to the current development schedule, i.e. with a launch date not later than 2012. (See also
ESA Press Release: Critical decisions on Cosmic Vision.)



NASA announces new SMEX candidates
NASA has announced a shortlist of five missions to go forward for the next selection phase for Small Explorer (SMEX) missions. The astrometry mission AMEX, which merged the US FAME and German DIVA initiatives, was not included in this shortlist. ESA's Gaia (a global astrometry mission planned for launch in 2010) and NASA's SIM (a pointed astrometry mission scheduled to launch in 2009) are now the only space astrometry missions planned for the foreseeable future. (For more details on the SMEX selections see the
NASA Press Release.)



Gaia's GDAAS presented at the ADASS conference
Xavier Luri, Universitat de Barcelona & Gaia Science Team, discussed the challenges of the data processing and analysis tasks to be faced by Gaia at the 2003 Astronomical Data Analysis Software & Systems XIII conference. Recent results from the Gaia Data Access and Analysis System Study which is currently underway were presented. Among the highlights of this were the successful processing for a 6-month Global Iterative Solution for (simulated) Gaia observations.



Presentations to the ESA advisory committees
The ESA advisory committees met in ESTEC (6-7 October) to review the status of ESA's planned scientific missions. The status of Gaia, as well as other future missions, was presented to a joint meeting of the Astronomy Working Group, Solar System Working Group, Fundamental Physics Advisory Group, and Space Science Advisory Committee.



First e2v CCDs for Gaia
The first batch of CCD wafers for Gaia's Astro (AF) instrument has recently been completed at the UK headquarters of e2v technologies in Chelmsford. The CCD91-72s represent one of the largest area CCDs produced by e2v. They are nearly 50% bigger than e2v's successful astronomy products used worldwide in ground-based telescopes. The Gaia device is designed to work in TDI (Time Delay and Integrate) mode. This allows an integrated image to be built up by the continuously scanning satellite, an essential concept at the heart of Gaia's mission to map with unprecedented accuracy the space position and motions of over a billion stars.
[See the
Picture of the week featuring e2v CCDs.]



Results from Gaia's planet detection tests
Members of the Planetary Systems Working Group have reported the first results of their tests of Gaia's exoplanet detection capabilities, using simulated data matching the results expected from the real mission. In a detailed `double blind test', data simulated by Torino Observatory astronomers Mario Lattanzi and colleagues was processed independently by Alessandro Sozzetti (Pittsburgh/CfA), and Dimitri Pourbaix and Sylvie Jancart (Bruxelles). The detection and orbit fitting solutions are in line with the formal predictions, and underline Gaia's capability of detecting many thousands of exoplanets from their astrometric wobble.
[See the
report on the Planetary Systems Working Group web site]



Scientific teams deliver new algorithms to GDAAS
Twelve new analysis algorithms, better reflecting the actual complexity of the Gaia processing system, were delivered to GDAAS in July for integration into the next major upgrade of the analysis prototype. Led by GMV (Madrid) and supported by the University of Barcelona, the Gaia Data Access and Analysis Study (GDAAS) is laying the foundations of a possible data analysis system for the Gaia mission. These new algorithms will allow better estimates of the true processing requirements for Gaia following launch in 2010.



e2v sensors form the largest focal plane CCD mosaic in the world
[From e2v]
Custom-built CCDs, designed and manufactured by Essex-based e2v technologies, have recently captured their first images through Megacam, the wide field camera mounted on the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT). The forty (40) e2v CCD42-90s represent the largest set of CCDs ever provided for any telescope in the world. e2v is working with the European Space Agency to develop and supply several hundreds of large format CCDs for Gaia.

[Read the e2v press release]



Invitation to Tender issued for inch-worm mechanism
The European Space Agency today issued an Invitation to Tender for an inch-worm mechanism. The activity proposed covers the specification and design refinement of the actuator and demonstrator development and test of the mechanism. Inch-worm mechanisms are attractive candidates for the Gaia quasi-static correction mechanism.
Further details of the ITT (AO4375) are availabl
e on EMITS



ESA issues Invitation to Tender for mN FEEP full qualification
The Gaia reaction control design assumes, among other things a continuous thrust of mN FEEPs to control the satellite scanning law and attitude for a mission lifetime of 5 years, extendible to 6. No mN FEEPs have been qualified and characterised for up to 6 years.This ITT is to assess criticality of mN range FEEP based RCS requirements and constraints for Gaia, to build a demonstration model and to carry out a qualification and characterisation programme of the model according to Gaia needs.
Further details of the ITT (AO4134) are available on


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