Venus Express Launches
November 9, 2005 | The European Space Agency's latest space probe, Venus Express, was launched from Kazakhstan today (local time) and is now on a hyperbolic Earth-escape trajectory. The mission was built as an inexpensive ($257 million) copy of the Mars Express design, which itself used the basic bus developed for the Rosetta comet probe. The spacecraft carries cameras, spectrometers and other instruments to study the atmosphere and near-space environment of Venus from an elliptical polar orbit around the planet.
The launch continues Europe's strategy of depending on
Russian rockets for launching smaller payloads, this time with a happier result than for its recent Cryosat and Demonstrator-2 missions, both of which failed. Venus Express will arrive at its destination in April 2006.