{mosimage}news source: Esa Press Office

Earlier this month, ESA’s Planck has reached an important milestone in its development. The “focal plane units” of the two instruments to be flown on the spacecraft were integrated into a single assembly by Alcatel Alenia Space’s premises in Cannes, France.

To achieve its mission objectives – mapping the Cosmic Microwave background at the widest frequency range ever, to study the fossil radiation from the Big Bang – Planck will fly two instruments: the High Frequency Instrument (HFI) and the Low Frequency Instrument (LFI).

{mosimage}Once in orbit, the Planck telescope will collect microwave radiation and will focus it onto the instruments’ detector arrays in the two focal plane units. These units have just been integrated into a single assembly during a delicate procedure performed by Alcatel Alenia Space engineers on 20 November 2006.

The surgeon-like, 4-hour long operation consisted of making HFI ‘descend’ into LFI in such a way to prevent any contact between the two instruments. Following the successful integration, the combined HFI and LFI unit is now ready to be mated and aligned with the Planck telescope, which is already available for integration on the Planck spacecraft.