August 25, 2008

ESA to Launch Complicated Mission Sept. 10

The European Space Agency says it is about to launch its most sophisticated mission ever to investigate the Earth's gravitational field.

The ESA said its "Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation explorer," or GOCE, will map the reference shape of the planet -- the geoid -- with unprecedented resolution and accuracy.

The satellite is to be launched into a low altitude, near-sun synchronous orbit Sept. 10 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia, about 500 miles north of Moscow.

GOCE is the first in the Core Mission of the Earth Explorer program, undertaken by ESA in 1999 to foster research on the Earth's atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and interior. The Earth Explorer missions will involve five launches to take place within the next two years.

The launch will be Web-streamed at: