Workers celebrate as satellite begins mission to map the stars

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One of the world’s most advanced space telescopes is today blasting into space... and parts of it were made in Portsmouth.

Staff at Astrium, in Hilsea, pictured, watched the launch of the Gaia satellite this morning, on its mission to map the galaxy.

Parts of the satellite, including its propulsion and telecoms systems, were built at the space firm’s Portsmouth base.

Astrium built the kit for the European Space Agency, and it was launched from Kourou, French Guiana, this morning.

The Gaia satellite will used by scientists to produce a 3D map of the galaxy, and is expected to discover hundreds of thousands of unknown celestial objects, including extra-solar planets and failed stars.

Mick Box, 53, from Baffins in Portsmouth, is one of the workers on the project. He was responsible for the satellite’s propulsion system.

The spacecraft will use a cold gas propulsion system with micro-thrusters, which enables it to remain perfectly stable and point with the require extreme accuracy.

Mick told The News: ‘Watching the launch today was fantastic, because I’ve not had the chance to see one before.

‘And of course it’s even more special when you know you were a part of making it.’

The photographic elements of the Gaia satellite are the most accurate yet.

It will be capable of picking out a strand of hair from a distance of 700 kilometres with its 1bn pixel camera.

Astrium says its telescopic instruments are the most expensive ever made.

· WATCH: European Space Agency video on how the Gaia satellite will work

· Video footage courtesy of ESA/CNES/Arianespace




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