Engineers at the European Space Agency (ESA) announce that the last components of the payload module, which constitutes the core of the upcoming Gaia mission, have finally been integrated.
What this means is that the spacecraft, which is scheduled to start surveying more than a billion stars in 2013, can now begin its next development stage, which mainly comprises rigorous testing.
The purpose of Gaia is to create a 3D map of as many stars in the Milky Way as possible. What ESA is interested in is learning more about these objects' evolution, formation, and composition.
In early 2013, the payload module will be attached to the Gaia service module, which provides thermal control, communications, attitude and orbit control, and propulsion, for the entire spacecraft.
Gaia will take off from the Kourou Spaceport, in French Guiana, South America, in late 2013.