Rosetta Spaceflight

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This Demonstration shows an animation of the flight of the Rosetta spacecraft's mission to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. This spacecraft used a technique called gravitational assist three times with the Earth and once with Mars. Closest approach to comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko is scheduled for May 2014. The spacecraft made flybys past two asteroids: (2867) Steins on September 05, 2008 and (21) Lutetia on July 10, 2010.


The orbits of the planets have the following colors: Mercury: orange, Venus: brown, Earth: blue, Mars: red, Jupiter: brown. The orbit of the comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko is white (or black, depending on the background color). The two asteroids have these colors: Steins: pink, Lutetia: cyan.


Contributed by: Tomas Franc (February 2013)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA



The time step is one day, positions are at midnight, and the speed is measured relative to the Sun. The origin is at the Sun with the positive axis pointing toward the vernal equinox.

Nothing here is modeled; all positions of the spacecraft and planets were obtained from NASA JPL. We thank NASA JPL for providing the data.

Information about the mission can be found on ESA's Rosetta website.

More information about the gravitational assist can be found in [1]. A manual on how to create such an animation can be found in [2]. For more information, see the author's website.


[1] T. Franc, "The Gravitational Assist," in Week of Doctoral Students 2011—Proceedings of Contributed Papers: Part III—Physics (WDS 2011), Prague (J. Safrankova and J. Pavlu, eds.), Prague: MatfyzPress Publishing House, 2011 pp. 55–60. _Franc.pdf.

[2] T. Franc, "Gravitational Assisted Trajectories—Making Your Own Pictures and Trajectory Study," in Proceedings GIREP-EPEC Conference 2011, Physics Alive, Jyväskylä, Finland (A. Lindell, A. Kähkönen, and J. Viiri, eds.), Jyväskylä, Finland: University of Jyväskylä, 2011 pp. 202–207.

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