August 30, 2016

Events Archive


14/09/2016: Publication of the First Gaia Catalogue

2014 events

10/02/2014: First Gaia Satellite Spectra

The figure illustrates one of the first results provided by the spectroscopic processing of Gaia-RVS data at CNES-DPCC.
It shows the spectra calibrated in wavelength and flux on the three along scan CCD for a single transit. The internal apparent Grvs magnitude, computed from the flux of the spectra, is about 5.5. The star is HIP 117279 and is a K5 giant.
A large number of lines can be seen in the spectra besides the three CaII lines. From these spectra, whose lines are shifted by Doppler effect, the Single Transit Analysis software derives the radial velocity using three different methods.
The radial velocities obtained by each method are written in the top figure and are consistent to each other.
This indicates that the result obtained by the pipeline is good. The median of these three determinations gives the spectroscopic radial velocity associated to the star. The ground based radial velocity from the litterature is in agreement with the pipeline results, if the barycentric correction of the order of 19 km/s is applied.

 ESA/Gaia/DPAC/CNES/Yves Viala, Françoise Crifo
Credits: ESA/Gaia/DPAC/CNES/Yves Viala, Françoise Crifo

The spectroscopic processing pipeline is developed by the DPAC CU6 group, in close collaboration with the CNES Gaia Data Processing Center teams. It will be run daily on Gaia data and is expected to produce tens of millions of spectra per day.

Read the complete article on ESA's website.

End 07/2014: Gaia Satellite end of InOrbit Commissionning Phase.

The end of In Orbit Commissionning Review of Gaia satellite Gaia took place on July 18, 2014 and confirmed that the satellite and the ground segment were ready to begin the daily operations. The scientific and technical experts as well as all the teams involved worked hard to work around or limit the impacts of the anomalies encountered and the scientific performances have been recomputed based on the rsults of the on-board commissionning. They are available at the following address:

A first version of Gaia catalogue is foreseen for summer 2016.

05/2014: Half-yearly workshop for the Coordination Unit 4 at CNES, Toulouse

Between the 19th & 21st of May, the CNES GAIA team welcomed 30 astronomers from Algeria, Belgium, Brazil, France, Finland, Italy, Russia, Spain and Taiwan to CNES, Toulouse for the half-yearly Coordination Unit 4 (CU4) Objects Processing workshop. These scientists are responsible for developing the algorithms that are gradually being implemented into the DPCC (Data Processing Centre CNES).

Persons participating to the workshop in May 2014

CU4 is often referred to as the GAIA wastebin, in that it receives all the observations that cannot be classified as a simple star. CU4 includes "Extended Objects" covering galaxies and quasars, "Non-Single-Stars" covering Astrometric, Spectroscopic, Photometric or Eclipsing binaries and finally "Solar System Objects", quite simply meaning asteroids.

The meeting allowed to discuss the evolution of the processing chains since the last meeting, as well as to have an update on the status of the ongoing performance verification of the satellite since its launch on 19th December 2013 on-board a Soyuz from French Guiana.

This meeting was of particular importance as the nominal mission is due to start within the next month when the first CU4 code will discover new asteroids, triggering science alerts, leading to detailed observations from ground based observatories subscribed to the GAIA-FUN (Follow-Up Network). In addition, the nominal mission will mark the start of a major system test using ecliptic pole observations from the satellite to validate the interfaces between the European wide GAIA Data Processing Centers located in Cambridge, Geneva, Madrid, Torino and Toulouse.

In addition to CU4, DPCC, the largest GAIA DPC, also hosts the CU6, Spectroscopy and the CU8, Astrometry processing chains.

02/06/2014: GAIA comes into focus

ESA's billion-star surveyor Gaia is slowly being brought into focus. This test image shows a dense cluster of stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way.

Once Gaia starts making routine measurements, it will generate truly enormous amounts of data. To maximise the key science of the mission, only small "cut-outs" centred on each of the stars it detects will be sent back to Earth for analysis.

Gaia calibration image - © ESA/DPAC/Airbus DS
A Gaia test image of the young star cluster NGC1818 in the Large Magellanic Cloud, taken as part of calibration and testing before the science phase of the mission begins. The field-of-view is 212 x 212 arcseconds and the image is approximately oriented with north up and east left. The integration time of the image was 2.85 seconds and the image covers an area less than 1% of the full Gaia field of view. © ESA/DPAC/Airbus DS

This test picture, taken as part of commissioning the mission to "fine tune" the behaviour of the instruments, is one of the first proper "images" to be seen from Gaia, but ironically, it will also be one of the last, as Gaia's main scientific operational mode does not involve sending full images back to Earth.

Read the complete article on ESA's website.

01/27/2014: GAIA, the first data arrive

Since the launch, data arrive from the satellite to the ESA's processing center in Villafranca (Spain) which process them.
All the data are transmitted by ESAC to CNES which ensures the backup of the central database in ESAC.

CNES participation to Gaia in-flight commissioning (Gaia satellite good functioning validation acceptation contractual phase between ESA and ASTRIUM) begun on January 16 with the reception of the first scientific data from the RVS (radial velocity spectrometer).
These data have been classed and sent through the gaiaWeb portal to the CU6 instrument experts.
Scientists participate to the in-flight commissioning as instrument experts in order to evaluate the RVS performance.

The first scientific chain (Calibration of the non-uniform bias from spectroscopic sequences on virtual objects) was executed. The results were sent to the scientists for validation.

Gaia in-flight commissioning should end at the end of April with a review at the end of May. Cyclical and daily processing will then begin and take place through the whole mission duration, with more and more data to be processed and scientific chains to be activated.

01/08/2014: GAIA enters its operational orbit

ESA's billion-star surveyor Gaia is now in its operational orbit around a gravitationally stable virtual point in space called Lagrange point 'L2', 1.5 million km from Earth. Gaia is on its 263 000 x 707 000 x 370 000 km, 180 day-long orbit around L2.

Entering orbit around L2 is a rather complex endeavour, achieved by firing Gaia's thrusters in such a way as to push the spacecraft in the desired direction whilst keeping the Sun away from the delicate science instruments.

Once the spacecraft instruments have been fully tested and calibrated - an activity that started en route to L2 and will continue for another four months - Gaia will be ready to enter a five-year operational phase.

Read the complete article on ESA's website.

2013 events

12/19/2013: GAIA satellite successful launch!

Gaia Launch
Gaia Launch

ESA's Gaia mission blasted off this morning on a Soyuz rocket from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on its exciting mission to study a billion suns. The Soyuz launcher, operated by Arianespace, lifted off at 09:12 GMT (10:12 CET). About ten minutes later, after separation of the first three stages, the Fregat upper stage ignited, delivering Gaia into a temporary parking orbit at an altitude of 175 km. A second firing of the Fregat 11 minutes later took Gaia into its transfer orbit, followed by separation from the upper stage 42 minutes after liftoff. Ground telemetry and attitude control were established by controllers at ESA's operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany, and the spacecraft began activating its systems. Gaia is now en route towards an orbit around a gravitationally-stable virtual point in space called L2, some 1.5 million kilometres beyond Earth as seen from the Sun.

Read the complete article on ESA's website.
To follow the Gaia mission news, see the ESA's website.

12/2013: Follow GAIA satellite launch live on December 19

ESA's GAIA satellite is scheduled to be sent aloft by a Russian Soyuz launcher from the Guiana Space Centre on 19 December. GAIA will map more than a billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy with unrivalled precision. One of the mission's main data processing centres is at CNES in Toulouse.

Liftoff set for 9h12 (UTC)

  • Launch date: 19 December 2013
  • Launcher version: Soyuz
  • Satellite: Gaia
  • Customer: ESA
  • Launch time: 9h12 (UTC)
  • Webcast start time: 8h52 (UTC)

To follow the launch, see the CNES' website.

11/22/2013: A new date for the launch

ESA release a new date for VS06, Soyuz-Gaia. The launch is scheduled for December 19, 2013 at 09:12:18 UTC.

To follow the launch campaign news, see the ESA's Blog.

October 30, 2013: A new date for the launch

Arianespace release on October 29 a new date for VS06, Soyuz-Gaia. The launch is scheduled for December 20, 2013 at 09:08:13.7 UTC.

October 24, 2013: Mapping the Milky Way

Article and movie about Gaia mission on Euronews website

10/23/2013: Gaia launch postponed

Yesterday, the decision was taken to postpone the launch of ESA's Gaia mission after a technical issue was identified in another satellite already in orbit.

Gaia shares some of the components involved in this technical issue and prompt notification of this problem has allowed engineers working on the final preparations for Gaia's launch to take additional precautionary measures.

The issue concerns components used in two transponders on Gaia that generate "timing signals" for downlinking the science telemetry. To avoid potential problems, they will be replaced.

The transponders will be removed from Gaia at Kourou and returned to Europe, where the potentially faulty components will be replaced and verified. After the replacements have been made, the transponders will be refitted to Gaia and a final verification test made.

As a consequence of these precautionary measures, it will not be possible to launch Gaia within the window that includes the previously targeted launch date of 20 November.

The next available launch window is 17 December to 5 January 2014.

Read the complete news on ESA's website

10/10/2013: DSA (Deployable Sunshield Assembly) deployment test in Kourou clean room

Sunshield deployment test Sunshield deployment test Sunshield deployment test
Sunshield deployment test Sunshield deployment test

Sunshield deployment time lapse (© ESA)
Sunshield deployment time lapse (© ESA)

09/29/2013: Conference "Gaia, un milliard d'étoiles dans le collimateur" at the "Cité de l'Espace" in Toulouse

There was, on September 29, during the event "Ciel en Fête" at the Cité de l'Espace, a conference organized by Cnes in partnership with 3AF. Over one hundred persons came in room Altair to listen to a conferencce in 3 parts. Frédéric Arenou, research engineer at CNRS/ Meudon Observatory set the scientific context to explain the main scientific gaols of the mission; Vincent Poinsignon, Gaia Project Manager at Astrium, revealed (nearly) all the technical challenges that had to be met to satisfy the requirements of the scientists; and Véronique Valette, Gaia Project Manager at Cnes, presented the means needed for the exploitation of the mass of data produced by the mission.The interventions were followed by questions of an attentive public.

Conference at the Cité de l'Espace on 29/09/2013 - © Gil Denis
Conference at the Cité de l'Espace on 29/09/2013 - © Gil Denis

09/29/2013: Gaia at Bordeaux Observatory "Open Day"

Bordeaux Observatory hosted over 1,700 visitors during its "Open Day" On Sunday, September 29, 2013. Gaia was honored with two conferences and a booth with models of the satellite, the traveling exposition about Gaia created by Paris Observatory, and animations. The scientists involved in the scientific preparation of the mission could explain their work and answer numerous questions form the people.

Bordeaux Observatory Open Day Bordeaux Observatory Open Day Bordeaux Observatory Open Day
Bordeaux Observatory Open Day Bordeaux Observatory Open Day Bordeaux Observatory Open Day
Bordeaux Observatory Open Day Bordeaux Observatory Open Day Bordeaux Observatory Open Day
Photos of Bordeaux Observatory "Open Day"

09/12/2013: Final rehearsal for GAIA teams

From 2014, Europe's GAIA satellite will gather billions of items of observational data on stars and other celestial objects in our galaxy. But are the data processing centres ready and able to handle such huge volumes of information on a daily basis? To find out, a dress rehearsal was held in early September.

Read the complete news on CNES' website

08/23/2013: GAIA has arrived in French Guiana

Built by Astrium in Toulouse, the Gaia spacecraft took off on board an Antonov 124 heavy-lift aircraft at 20.00 yesterday from Toulouse airport with the destination of Cayenne, the capital of French Guiana. The spacecraft will now be transported by truck to Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, 64 km from Cayenne.

The Gaia satellite being prepared for shipment to Kourou. The 10 tonne container is placed with a huge crane onto the access ramp before loading into the Antonov airplane. © Isabelle Desenclos
The Gaia satellite being prepared for shipment to Kourou. The 10 tonne container is placed with a huge crane onto the access ramp before loading into the Antonov airplane. © Isabelle Desenclos

Giuseppe Sarri, ESA's Gaia project manager, who also flew on the Antonov aircraft with Gaia, said that the flight from Europe to South America went smoothly. "We are now looking forward to the coming weeks of final preparation, which we will undertake with the same care and determination that the teams have shown so far when building the spacecraft."

On 28 August, a second Antonov 124 aircraft will carry Gaia's sunshield and most of the ground support equipment from Toulouse to Cayenne. At that point, all the spacecraft parts and equipment will have arrived in French Guiana, leading towards the launch later this year.

Read the complete news on ESA's web site

06/2013: Europe bids GAIA a safe journey

ESA's billion-star surveyor, Gaia, has completed final preparations in Europe and is ready to depart for its launch site in French Guiana, set to embark on a five-year mission to map the stars with unprecedented precision. While waiting for the launch, ESA has set up a new 'mini-site' around Gaia mission.

You will find at the following adress the latest informations about the mission, as well as articles explaining the context around the mission objectives, the spacecraft, its predecessors and much more.

You will also find links to detailled reports and the on board diary entries which covers all the tests campaign, while Gaia was tested before being sent to the ESA launch site at Kourou.

Read the complete news on ESA's web site

04/2013: Gaia, third general rehearsal

Gaia project teams are mobilized for a third general rehearsal before the launch. It will take place from the 22nd to the 30th of April. It is the occasion to remember the skills needed in this programme.

Inside Gaia project, which unites 450 people in Europe, our CNES team plays a determining role to prepare the systems that will allow the exploitation of the billons of data from the satellite by the scientists. Focus on the skills mobilized...

The skills in Gaia project

If Gaia mobilizes a total of 450 people, it is in a large majority scientists. But without technical support, the mission loses all its meaning. Thus, numerous engineers and technicians are associated, notably for the data processing.
At CNES, it involves a dozen people which intervene nearly daily on the project in this development phase, in addition to the responsibles which structured the CNES proposition during the ESA call for tender.

CNES members at the heart of the "coordination units"

Gaia CNES members are all invested in coordination units, the CU, depending on their specialties: spectroscopy, astrophysics...
Their main mission consists in supplying scientists with tools and methods which will ensure the good operation of the data processing machine, supplied by CNES via the SAGA system. It mostly is integration: the algorithms integration that will determine the computations to be performed, which are developed by scientists, themselves mobilized in different European laboratories.

A strong organizational challenge

Our project managers team, technical responsibles - systems and development - and other architectes, thus have a major role: to transforme huge volumes of raw data coming from the satellite, in data easily exploitable by the scientific community. This represents numerous challenges to meet on technical and organizational levels.
The CNES is at the heart of this European collaboration, by its experience, but also its capability to mobilize in the long term technical competences. Up to this day, Each person has found his place in this complexe organization and bring out the proof of CNES know-how.

04/2013: Gaia : from Facebook to the Milky Way

Gaia : from Facebook to the Milky Way par CNES (in French)

The processing of the data from the astronomy satellite Gaia, which launch is planned for the end of 2013, will use the same technical foundation than the most known social network, the American Facebook.

2012 events

12/2012: GAIA scientific ground segment in the final stretch

From December 4 to 14, general rehearsal at GAIA Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC). Less than one year before the launch, it is the first time that the different computing centers involved in GAIA, of which the one located in the CNES Space Center at Toulouse, are being operated in conditions close to the operation ones.

The DPCC team and the scientists, co-located at CST during the test - credit: CNES

GAIA is the next "corner stone" of the ESA. The mission will map a large part of our Galaxy with an accuracy on the position and the velocity between a hundred and a thousand times better than the current data. To achieve this, the satellite will regularly scan the sky with its two telescopes in order to multiply the ecartometry measurements between more than a billion stars and other objects.

GAIA ground segment, developed by a consortium of European laboratories (the DPAC), will be in charge of processing the huge amount of telemetry to sort the objects (simple stars, confonded or not, binaries, small objects of the Solar System...), to compute their position and their appearent velocity at a few millionths of arc second and to provide the emission spectra of a great quantity of them.

For this, the DPAC is organized around 6 supercomputers distributed in the participatings countries and at ESAC in Madrid, in which the processing chains developed by laboratories will be installed. Particularly, the Toulouse Space Center developed and will operate the DPCC (Data Processing Center CNES), hosting a great number of scientific chains worked out by Paris Observatory, Nice Observatory, the astrophysics laboratory of Bordeaux and Montpellier and Besançon Universities as well as other laboratories from all over Europe.

During the in-flight commissioning, some processings from the DPAC will be crutials to verify the performances of the satellite. Called "Critical Items", they are the reason of the general rehearsal. During nearly two weeks, the DPCC - as its counterparts in Turin and Cambridge - will recieve representative data from ESAC in Madrid, with the same rate that during the in-flight commissioning and will have to realise the products it is in charge of: the spectra of the objets, to ensure the calibration of the Radial Velocity Spectrometer, instrument in charge of the spectroscopic measurements on board.

"Beyond the scientific softwares and the processor performances validation, the organization, the processes and the validation tools need to be tested", explains Véronique Valette, DPCC project manager. "For the first time, the scientists are on the bridge, to verify the validity of the products". Four scientists from Paris Observatory and from MSSL (Mullard Space Science Laboratoty, GB) participate to the test, in integrated team with CNES team.

Thre other general rehearsals are planned in 2013. In parallele, the development and the tests of the other processing chains, that will begin progressively after the end of the in-flight commissioning, continue. More work in sight!

10/2012: Gaia launcher separation test and Payload Module acceptance vibration tests completed

Testing of the separation of the Gaia Service Module from its Launch Vehicle Adapter has been completed, as have the acceptance vibration tests on the Payload Module.

Two more important test campaigns, conducted at Astrium Toulouse, have been completed, taking Gaia closer to launch readiness. The operation of the mechanism that will separate the spacecraft's Service Module (SVM) from the upper stage of its launcher has been verified and acceptance level vibration testing of the Payload Module (PLM) has been successfully concluded.

Read the complete news on ESA's website

09/2012: Gaia's instruments installed and ready for testing

The payload module of ESA's billion-star surveyor Gaia is integrated and ready for the next stage of rigorous testing it must undergo before launch next year.

 Astrium SAS
Payload module in the Astrium cleanroom in Toulouse, France.
Credits: Astrium SAS

Read the complete news on ESA's website

03/2012: Java WorkShop 2012 for the data processing consortium

CNES is part of the Gaia project through the Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC). This consortium is composed of more than 400 people, scientists and technicians across Europe. Gaia scientific data processing codes are developed by scientist themselves in Java language. The system Coordination Unit (CU1) of the DPAC regularly organizes "Java Workshop" to help scientists that develop softwares. CNES, which role is very active at the system level, organized on March 13 & 14 the Java Workshop 2012 on the theme of the numerical stability and Java codes performance.

These sujects topics are of great importance in connection with the development of Gaia scientific data processing: very complexe algorithms that must process billions of observations in very short time.

In addition to the practical organization of the seminar, the CNES has amply contributed to the presentations by providing seven presentations of work done on improving the performance and stability of numerical codes being integrated in CNES Gaia processing center (DPCC).

About 50 people, scientists, Java developers or engineers from other Gaia data processing centers participated to this seminar.

Participants to Java Workshop for Gaia DPAC in March 2012
Participants to Java Workshop for Gaia DPAC in March 2012

2011 events

12/2011: Gaia deploys its sunshield.

ESA's Gaia star-mapper has passed a critical test ahead of its launch in 2013: the spacecraft's sunshield has been deployed for the first time.
Gaia's sunshield is an essential component of the mission. It keeps Gaia in shadow, maintaining the scientific instruments at a constant temperature of around –110°C.
During this test at Astrium in Toulouse, France, support cables and counterweights simulated weightless conditions and provided a realistic trial.

 Astrium France
This video is an edited, time-lapse sequence of the deployment. In real time, it takes about 20 minutes. As the sunshield opens, the main spacecraft comes into view. Credits: Astrium France

Read the complete news on ESA's web site

09/2011: Gaia mirrors ready to shine.

ESA's Gaia mission has passed another major milestone after the completion of 10 state-of-the-art mirrors that will be used to measure the precise positions of a billion stars. With the delivery of the last of these complex mirrors, Europe has further reinforced its position as the world leader in silicon carbide mirror technology.

One of the Gaia primary (M1) mirrors, pictured at the premises of Sagem, France.
One of the Gaia primary (M1) mirrors, pictured at the premises of Sagem, France.

Read the complete news on ESA's web site

08/2011: Payload Module vibration testing completed at Intespace, Toulouse.

In late June, mechanical testing of the Gaia Payload Module was performed at the facilities of Intespace in Toulouse, France, under the direction of the Prime Contractor, Astrium. The results have been analysed and the testing declared successfully completed.

The Structural Model of the Gaia Payload Module in its X-axis test configuration at Intespace, Toulouse, France, during vibration testing. To verify the alignment, the optics of the Astro 1 telescope have been installed. © Astrium - France
The Structural Model of the Gaia Payload Module in its X-axis test configuration at Intespace, Toulouse, France, during vibration testing. To verify the alignment, the optics of the Astro 1 telescope have been installed. © Astrium - France

Read the complete news on ESA's web site

07/2011: The detectors mosaic composing GAIA eye was assembled at Astrium facilities in Toulouse.

The largest digital camera ever built for a space mission has been painstakingly mosaicked together from 106 separate electronic detectors. The resulting "billion-pixel array" will serve as the super-sensitive 'eye' of ESA's Galaxy-mapping Gaia mission.

A total of 106 CCDs make up Gaia's focal plane. Technicians from Astrium France, the Gaia mission's prime contractor, bolted and aligned the CCDs onto their support structure, at the company's facility in Toulouse. © Astrium France
A total of 106 CCDs make up Gaia's focal plane. Technicians from Astrium France, the Gaia mission's prime contractor, bolted and aligned the CCDs onto their support structure, at the company's facility in Toulouse. © Astrium France

Read the complete news on ESA's web site

2010 events

12/2010: Firsts DPCC system tests with the ESAC (Madrid): tests conclusive!

07/2010: Delivery of DPC version 1, and installation at CNES IT Centre

2008 events

06/2008: Beginning of the industrial development of DPC

01/2008: End of phase B and PDR of the Data Processing Center (DPC)

2007 events

052007: Approbation by ESA's Science Programme committee of the DPAC scientific consortium's proposition to realise the mission data processing