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ESA to launch Herschel and Planck mission on May 6

The Herschel telescope will be launched along with the Planck spacecraft. Photo credit: ESA

FRENCH GUIANA (BNS): Experts have completed all additional checks related to the flight worthiness of the Herschel telescope, and it will now be launched along with the Planck spacecraft on May 6, 2009, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Thursday.

An independent team of experts led by the ESA Inspector General and Arianespace had carried out a final cross-check of the Herschel telescope and confirmed that all required safety measures were in place. “The telescope is fully qualified for launch,” the ESA said.

The Herschel telescope mirror, the largest ever to be sent to space, will use 12 silicon carbide petals brazed together into a single piece. The powerful telescope will enable scientists look deep into the space, at long infrared wavelengths. It will make possible to study relatively cool objects all over the universe, the space agency said.

The Planck mission will be the first European space observatory aimed at studying the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) – the relic radiation from the Big Bang. It will measure tiny fluctuations in the CMB, providing sharpest picture ever of the young Universe.

Herschel and Planck will embark on their space journey on board an Ariane 5 rocket which will blast off from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

The final preparations for the launch that had been suspended temporarily, will resume now, the ESA said, adding the activities would include fuelling of the two satellites and filling of the Herschel cryostat with helium.

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