On November 12, 2014, after a ten-year voyage all the way across the solar system, the Rosetta space probe's Philae landing module finally touched down on the surface of comet ‘Chury’. To ensure that the probe never ran out of fuel during its four billion mile journey through space, pressure sensors from Kistler monitored fuel consumption round the clock.
A Critical Success Factor The Rosetta space probe's Philae landing module touched down on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on November 12, 2014. Highly accurate monitoring of the probe's fuel consumption was essential to ensure that it would actually reach the comet in spite of numerous corrections to its course. One single tank of fuel had to be enough to reach the final destination – so fuel monitoring was a critical success factor.
After Philae's successful landing on November 12, Rosetta was due to accompany the comet for at least one year to gather valuable information and answer fundamental questions about this colossal mass of dust and ice. But because the landing module touched down in a place that does not receive enough light to top up its energy reserves, Philae was put into hibernation mode (as of November 2014).
Sensors in Continuous Operation
Kistler played a small but valuable part in the success of the ambitious Rosetta project. Two Kistler piezoresistive sensors produced in 1999 carried out fuel monitoring on board Rosetta from March 2004 onwards. The key selection criteria for these sensors included their proven longevity and total reliability despite zero gravity conditions.
Rosetta's cargo included what is known as the Rosetta Disk – a nickel alloy disk with information etched onto it in image form. The disk contains about 13,000 pages of text in 1200 different languages, and it should still be readable after 10,000 years: durable though they are, even Kistler's sensors are no longer likely to be functioning after such a lengthy period!
Kistler Sets Milestones in Technology
Rolf Sonderegger, CEO of the Kistler Group, shared the Kistler engineers' personal delight at the success of the Rosetta mission.
‘It is wonderful to see that Kistler's technology helps to set technological milestones. We are able to participate in high-tech projects such as Rosetta because Kistler invests 10% of its sales revenue in research and development every year. Kistler's sensors are extremely durable and reliable – together with our engineers' enormous stock of application know-how, these are the factors that make it possible to use our sensor technology in a variety of applications that truly push the physical limits.‘