Comet chaser selfie 455 million km from earth

Dutch solar arrays have supplied the comet chaser Rosetta with energy for more than ten years. On 12 November 2014, the mission will experience its climax when the small probe Philae descends onto the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Rosetta was launched in 2004 and since then has flown through our wings chasing the comet 67P/C-G. On 7 October 2014, the on-board camera made this selfie at a distance of 15 kilometres. Besides the comet, one of the solar panels from Leiden is clearly visible.

8700 Watts capacity

Rosetta’s long journey and considerable distance from the sun impose specific requirements on the design of the solar arrays. The further the satellite is from the sun, the less light falls on the arrays and so the less power these can supply. Furthermore, the ambient temperature is extremely low: about -270 degrees Celsius.

Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands developed two large wings with five solar panels each and a total surface area of sixty square metres. Together they are capable of supplying up to 8700 Watts in power.

Even at the farthest point of the journey, about 800 million kilometres from the sun where the solar intensity is just four percent, our arrays generated 400 Watts of energy. Exactly enough to keep Rosetta’s instruments warm.

Discover more about Rosetta on the mission page.