This series of 19 images, acquired by the Rosetta orbiter’s Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) on November 12, 2014, shows the Philae lander during its descent towards Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

This series of 19 images, acquired by the Rosetta orbiter’s Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) on November 12, 2014, shows the Philae lander during its descent towards Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

More good news about Europe’s Philae comet lander!

The team at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum fuer Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) received data from the Philae lander for the third time on June 19th.

In that time period, Philae sent 185 data packets from the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Night work

After its seven-month hibernation, word from DLR is that the lander is operating at a temperature of zero degrees Celsius. That means that the battery is now warm enough to store energy.

Therefore, Philae will also be able to work during the comet’s night, regardless of solar illumination, observes Michael Maibaum, a systems engineer at the DLR Lander Control Center (LCC) in Cologne and Deputy Operations Manager.

Soaking up the Sun

Engineers have determined that the amount of sunlight Philae is can soak up has increased.

Instrumented Philae comet lander. Credit: ESA/DLR

Instrumented Philae comet lander.
Credit: ESA/DLR

“More solar panels were illuminated…at the end of contact, four of Philae’s panels were receiving energy,” Maibaum said in a press statement.

There were a number of interruptions in the connection, but it was otherwise stable over a longer period for the first time.

“The contact has confirmed that Philae is doing very well,” Maibaum added.

Future operations

Philae has managed to survive the icy temperatures on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko – temperature and energy values show that the lander is now operational.

The trajectory of the Rosetta orbiter that deployed the comet lander last year is being modified to optimize the possibility for renewed contact. Doing so would allow the orbiter to act as a relay between Philae and Earth.

Rosetta orbiter. Credit: ESA

Rosetta orbiter.
Credit: ESA

“However, we need a long and stable contact time to conduct research with Philae again as planned,” says Maibaum.

If these conditions are met, the 10 instruments on board Philae could once again be operated from the DLR Lander Control Center.

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