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How do you catch a comet?

How do you catch a comet?

At the end of May 2014, the Rosetta space probe will swing into an orbit around the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in order to, after more closely approaching it in August, map its surface and thus prepare for the landing of Philae. This ballistic lander, weighing 100 kg, is supposed to land on the comet in November and - thanks to Faulhaber drives - securely position itself. After an adventurous journey of over 10 years through outer space, this is a first in the history of space travel.

Landing on a comet - a manoeuvre which has never been performed before - is in many ways beset with difficulties. The search for a suitable place to land will be carried out on the basis of high-resolution images of the comet's surface. These will only become available, however, after Rosetta has drawn within just a few kilometres of the comet. There is also little known about the exact composition of the surface of the comet. Ice and dust, fissures and craggy structures are factors in the chances for a safe landing. Accordingly, the Philae lander unit was conceived to handle the many eventualities.

One of the greatest challenges is the minimum gravity affecting 67P. There is indeed no risk that the probe could break apart upon landing, as it only weighs a few grams on the comet. Rather, the aim is to prevent Philae from bouncing off the planet again. In order to find firm footing on the surface and ensure this footing throughout the entire duration of the mission, a special anchor system was developed. Immediately after contacting the ground upon landing, two harpoons are shot by propellant charge into the surface of the comet and, to secure the lander, are then drawn taut by means of two cable winches, each one driven by a Faulhaber motor.

Thanks to Faulhaber 's expertise with regard to applications in outer space, not only the harpoons but also a host of other systems of the lander are equipped with our drives. Thus, Faulhaber DC motors are at work in the instruments and experimental facility of Philae to exactly investigate the structure and composition of the comet surface and this way gain valuable insights into the origin and evolution of our solar system.

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