Rosetta gets in position to release Phalae

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Rosetta has successfully maneuvered into position prior to releasing Philae on November 12 for landing on Comet 67P/C-G.

The thruster burn took place starting at 02:09:55 UTC (03:09:55 CET), ran for 90 seconds and, based on an initial analysis of spacecraft radiometric data, delivered a delta-v – change in speed – of 9.3 cm/sec, as confirmed by the Rosetta Flight Dynamics team. It was the second and final of two ‘deterministic’ (i.e. direction and thrust are prepared in advance) manoeuvres that moved Rosetta onto the planned lander delivery orbit, now at a height of about 30 km, which will be maintained right up until the pre-delivery manoeuvre at two hours before separation at 08:35 UTC (09:35 CET) on the morning of 12 November.

…[T]he next planned orbit-changing manoeuvres will occur on the 12th at (a) 2 hours before separation and (b) about 40 minutes after, in between which Philae will be released. The pre-delivery manoeuvre will shift Rosetta’s trajectory so that the orbiter would be on a path so as to pass over the comet at a distance of 5 km, while the separation will occur at 08:35 UTC on board the spacecraft about 22 km (the confirmation signal will arrive on Earth at 09:03 UTC).

Since Philae is a passive lander, firing no thrusters but simply being thrown gently at the comet by Rosetta, the last two burns are crucial. The first literally puts Rosetta on the same collision course as Philae so that when the lander is released it is on a course to hit the comet. The second takes Rosetta out of that collision course, since no one wants it to hit the comet also.

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