Left; Launch [Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls] ; Right:Artists Impression of GRACE Follow-On [Credit:NASA]
6 years after project start (and many more after first discussions on the successor to the GRACE mission), the US-German Gravity mission GRACE Follow-On has successfuly launched yesterday 12:49 PST, in perfect weather with a beautiful blue sky, the two Grace Follow-On Satellites launched onboard of a Falcon 9, together with 5 Iridium Satellites.
Everything is looking good. There have be no issue before or during the launch, the satellites deployed as planned and telemetry shows both satellites are healthy. The instruments will be put into operation over the next weeks.
GRACE Follow-On will continue the GRACE success story and flies the first inter-satellite laser interferometer, which may also be seen as a LISA technology pathfinder. For STI, being responsible for the German contribution to the laser ranging interferometer, this is the first laser-optical equipment in space, along with other equipment provided by us.
A video of the launch can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3niFzo5VLI
STI has significantly contributed to GRACE Follow-On, namely we where responsible for:
- the Gerrman contribution of the laser ranging interferometer (the optical bench, the retroreflector and the instrument baffles)
- the LRI instrument integration @ STI facitlities in cooperation with JPL, DLR, Airbus DS and AEI
- the spacecraft primary structures (structural analysis and procurement)
- the ASTSS tertiary structure (manufactured by CST)
- the deployable S-Band boom
- the Coarse Earth-Sun-Sensors (CESS)
- the satellite MGSE & transport containers
We did this in contract to the Geoforschungszentrum Potsdam (GFZ) for the LRI (and under the scientific lead of Albert Einstein Institute Hannover - AEI) and in subcontract to Airbus DS for the other contributions. On the US side we had a close cooperation with JPL who where responsible for the mission and provided the US part of the LRI (the laser, the cavity & the phasemeter).
STI is proud to be part of this mission and thankful for the great cooperation of all project partners!
Much more information on GRACE Follow-On can be found here: