The European Space Agency (ESA) has delivered the first of the three satellites of the Swarm constellation to the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia pending November launch.
An intensive pre-launch test campaign will now commence making sure the satellites, designed to study Earth’s magnetic field, have not sustained any damage during their transport from Germany.
The launch, scheduled for 14 November, will see all three satellites carried to orbit by a single Rockot rocket.
While the first satellite has already been unloaded and transported by a lorry to the integration facility, the arrival of the other two is expected by the beginning of the next week.
The Swarm mission – the next big undertaking of ESA regarding the exploration of Earth – consists of three trapezoidal satellites with a 9m-long boom that will be deployed in orbit.
Using the boom has enabled the scientists to mount sensors at the tip to avoid any magnetic interference from the rest of the satellite.
A product of cooperation between ESA and the Canadian space agency, the satellites have been built by a consortium led by EADS Astrium. They will be circling the Earth in near polar orbit – two of them at the altitude of 450km, the third one at 530km.
The satellites will be measuring magnetic signal from Earth’s core, mantle, crust and oceans, as well as its ionosphere and magnetosphere.
The data is believed to shed more light on many natural processes involving magnetic forces, from those occurring deep inside the planet to weather in space caused by solar activity.
The scientists hope to uncover why the Earth's magnetic field has recently been weakening.