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Soyuz launches Gaia astronomy satellite
Posted: Thu, Dec 19, 2013, 8:14 AM ET (1314 GMT)
Gaia spacecraft illustration (ESA) A Soyuz rocket successfully launched a European satellite that will accurately measure the positions and properties of one billion stars. The Soyuz rocket lifted off on schedule at 4:12 am EST (0912 GMT) from the European spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, and the Fregat upper stage released the Gaia satellite 42 minutes later. The spacecraft will spend the next three weeks traveling to the Earth-Sun L2 point, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, where the spacecraft will operate. The Astrium-built spacecraft will observe an estimated one billion stars during its five-year mission, measuring the positions and distances as well as physical properties. Gaia is billed as the sucecssor to ESA's Hipparcos mission, which compiled the most accurate catalog of stellar positions ever two decades ago.
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