The European Space Agency (ESA) operates a scientific programme entitled GAIA whose goal is to make a detailed map of our galaxy, the Milky Way. The positions of roughly 1 billion stars are to be determined. For every single star, the instruments will also determine luminosity, temperature, direction of motion and composition. The results from the survey will provide important data about the Milky Way's origins, structure and evolution.
Astrium SAS (France) won the contract to develop and build the GAIA satellite. That company then announced competitive tenders for instrument components. The GAIA instrument includes two large telescopes that observe different parts of the heavens at the same time. To achieve the accuracy needed for the measurements, it is necessary to be 100% certain of the angle between the telescopes.
Strong position in laser technology
Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace landed the contract to make this unit. It will consist of a number of light sources, including two stabilised lasers to measure the angle in the GAIA instrument. Called 'the flight model', the unit is scheduled for delivery towards the end of 2008. "This contract consolidates KONGBERG's position in the field of European aerospace when it comes to laser technology", comments Jon Kvistedal of Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace.
The order is valued at approximately MNOK 20.