With the additional checks related to the flight worthiness of the Herschel telescope now completed, ESA and Arianespace have set the launch date of Herschel and Planck for May 6, 2009.
The Herschel telescope’s primary mirror, the largest ever to be launched in space, is a novel and advanced concept using 12 silicon carbide petals brazed together into a single piece. It is one of the major technological highlights of the mission.
Planck will provide a major source of information relevant to several cosmological and astrophysical issues, such as testing theories of the early universe and the origin of cosmic structure.
Herschel and Planck will start their journey in space on board an Ariane 5 departing from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The final preparations for launch that had been suspended temporarily will now be resumed — fueling the two satellites and filling the Herschel cryostat with helium.
After launch, Planck and Herschel will separate and will be placed in different orbits around the second Lagrangian point of the Earth-Sun System.