Planck Spacecraft

051013 jmd 0008 planckAfter a test campaign of 10 months at CSL, the Planck spacecraft left Liege for the Kourou Space Center (French Guiana) in February 09. Planck was launched with success in May 2009, jointly with the Herschel spacecraft, by an Ariane 5 rocket.
The Prime Contractor of Planck is Thales Alenia (Cannes).
At CSL, a set-up specially designed for Planck spacecraft was developed in Focal5 in order to perform the cryogenic environment tests.
The challenge was to reproduce on ground the real environment of the deep space in terms of temperature and absorptivity. The test of the overall spacecraft consisted in a high technical design and development as it was the only way to measure the end-to-end cooling chain of the instrument.
The Planck spacecraft cold point was at around 100 mK. These extremely cold conditions were achieved and maintained in test configuration during 2 weeks in summer 2008. The complete vacuum phase lasted 65 days, 24h/24.
The reproduction of these space conditions had to be as perfect as possible to avoid any test set-up influence on the spacecraft performances, especially those linked to radiative cooling, mechanical perturbations, Helium residual pressure and so, to avoid bringing energy to the last dilution stage of the cooling chain. The test required environmental temperatures lower than 20 K, in a volume of about 60 m3 containing materials for more than 1000 kg.
The last critical requirement in test was related to the instruments verification. A large radio frequency black body was required to be put in front of the instruments focal plane, to avoid any parasitic reflected wave. The temperature homogeneity of this black body had to be better than 0.1K, while the thermal stability had to be of the order of 1 mK during minimum 4 hours. For the test on the Planck flight model, this black body was equipped with dedicated sources and aligned with respect to the spacecraft. In flight, the coldest point (<100mK) of Planck S/C was reached on the 3th of July 2009, seven weeks
after the launch; the similarity of cool down phases and cool down durations, on ground or in flight, confirm that the simulated conditions on ground (at CSL in Focal 5) were well representative of space.

CSL has perfectly respected the big challenge : Test as you fly


'Planck Retour vers le passé ' video   (in french)


The first results of Planck are fabulous; we can say today that the University of Liege has significantly contributed to the quest of the origin of our universe!
The other activity, in Focal 5 was related to the delivery of a new turn key thermal system for a space qualification test facility to ESA, CSL has supplied a complete thermal tent made of Copper thermal panels.
All these panels have been baked out, with an automatically controlled/secured IR lamps heating system. A maximum temperature of 80°C on the shrouds has been obtained.


transport planck lancement planck herschel

Planck loading in Liege airport for shipment

to Kourou (Feb 2009) (credit ESA/TAS)

Herschel & Planck have been launched

the 14th mai 2009 from an Ariane 5


Read article 'Planck est à Liège' on the Reflexions site

Contact(s) : Isabelle Domken