How Will Gaia Be Transported into Space?
The Gaia satellite has been designed to be placed in space by the Soyuz/ST rocket. First the rocket is sent to a low altitude parking orbit. Then the Fregat upper stage of the rocket is fired to send the satellite to its final operational location, L2.
How Do Rockets Work?
Liquid or solid propellants (a mixture of fuel and oxidizer) are burnt inside the rocket producing pressurized gas that escapes through a nozzle. This gas provides a thrust that propels the rocket in the upward direction (just like a balloon starts moving if we release its nozzle).
What is a Soyuz-Fregat Rocket?
Soyuz launch vehicles have a special place in the history of space flight. They launched the first satellite and the first man into space. Soyuz rockets have launched ESA's Cluster and Mars Express satellites and will launch more ESA satellites in the future, including Gaia.
The main componets of the Soyuz are: the fairing where the payload (the satellite to be launched) is located, and four different engine 'stages'. Each stage performs a different function.
Stage I - the boosters - propel the rocket from Earth. Stage II and III are used to put the rocket into orbit above Earth. Stage IV - the Fregat - is a complex stage which is able to start and stop several times. This allows it to perform complex manoeuvres and to place satellites into many different orbits.
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