By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies. You can find out more by following this link Accept & Close ›
Space Blog

SSTL wheels in for Rosetta comet-chaser mission

After 957 days of deep-space hibernation ESA’s comet-chasing mission, Rosetta, is finally set to wake up automatically on 20 January 2014.
Rosetta and Philae at comet  (Credit ESA-J Huart 2013)

The Rosetta spacecraft has been travelling for more than ten years towards its target, a comet called Churyumov–Gerasimenko, which it is due to reach in August this year. Once there, the spacecraft will map the comet’s surface and then in November Rosetta will dispatch a lander for close inspection of the comet’s nucleus. This is when the excitement really begins for us at SSTL because the lander, Philae, carries an SSTL momentum wheel, delivered for the mission way back in 2001.

The momentum wheel on-board Philae is there to provide gyroscopic stabilisation for the lander as it makes its descent to the comet’s surface. A momentum wheel is a wheel connected to a motor which is spun up to a high rotational speed – this provides what is referred to as an angular momentum bias to the lander. The bias helps stabilise the lander in the same way that a spinning gyroscope will stand on its end.

SSTL momentum wheel

The SSTL wheel design was a great choice for this mission because of its special bearing which is particularly good for long periods of storage in vacuum. The bearing makes use of a solid lubricant which can’t evaporate into space, unlike the oil used by most wheels in space and on the ground. The wheel is also extremely power efficient, only consuming about 6W, which is really important on such a power-limited spacecraft.

Philea lander (credit ESA)

After the rendez-vous with Churyumov–Gerasimenko, data from the lander will be beamed back to the Rosetta spacecraft as it follows the comet through the Solar System, monitoring conditions as it warms up heading towards its closest approach to the Sun, in August 2015. 

So the waking up of the Rosetta spacecraft is just the start of another countdown for us here – ticking off the days until November when Philae is released to begin its journey towards the surface of the comet.

You can follow Rosetta and Philae on twitter @ESA_Rosetta and @philae2014

or on facebook





17 January 20140 Comments1 Comment

Back to Blog

Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.
 Security code

About This Blog

SSTL's lowdown on cost effective space technology, small satellites, space science and interplanetary exploration.

Post Archive

October 2017(1)
May 2017(1)
January 2017(2)
October 2016(3)
September 2016(1)
July 2016(1)
June 2016(1)
April 2016(1)
March 2016(4)
February 2016(3)
December 2015(2)
November 2015(3)
October 2015(3)
July 2015(1)
May 2015(0)
May 2015(1)
April 2015(1)
March 2015(2)
February 2015(2)
January 2015(2)
December 2014(1)
November 2014(2)
October 2014(2)
September 2014(1)
July 2014(2)
June 2014(3)
May 2014(1)
April 2014(1)
March 2014(1)
February 2014(2)
January 2014(2)
November 2013(3)
October 2013(2)
September 2013(2)
July 2013(3)
June 2013(2)
May 2013(2)
April 2013(4)
March 2013(1)
February 2013(3)
January 2013(5)
December 2012(6)
November 2012(5)
October 2012(4)
September 2012(4)
August 2012(1)
July 2012(6)
June 2012(1)
May 2012(2)
April 2012(5)
March 2012(3)
February 2012(3)
January 2012(1)
December 2011(1)
November 2011(4)
October 2011(5)
September 2011(4)
August 2011(3)
July 2011(4)
June 2011(6)
May 2011(3)
April 2011(1)
March 2011(3)
February 2011(2)
January 2011(3)
December 2010(2)
November 2010(1)
October 2010(2)
September 2010(4)
August 2010(4)
July 2010(2)
June 2010(2)
May 2010(2)
April 2010(4)
March 2010(4)
February 2010(4)
January 2010(3)
December 2009(2)
November 2009(5)
October 2009(2)
September 2009(6)
August 2009(4)
July 2009(3)
June 2009(1)
May 2009(2)
March 2009(2)
February 2009(5)
January 2009(2)
December 2008(3)
November 2008(6)
October 2008(5)
September 2008(3)
August 2008(5)
June 2008(1)
May 2008(3)
April 2008(5)
March 2008(1)
February 2008(1)
January 2008(3)
December 2007(3)
November 2007(6)
October 2007(3)
September 2007(3)
August 2007(1)
July 2007(1)
June 2007(2)
May 2007(2)
April 2007(1)
January 2007(3)
December 2006(1)
September 2006(1)
May 2006(2)
January 2006(1)
December 2005(7)

Show/Hide All

If you like Space Blog, why not subscribe by RSS by clicking the subscribe button, or to recieve updates by email click the subscribe by email button.

*Comments Policy
SSTL reserves the right not to publish comments if they are deemed inappropriate.