1.) We just got the news by a tweet of @ESAGaia that both halfs of the fairing were put around the Gaia spacecraft and the Fregat upperstage. This package is ready to be launched on December 19 and to be unpacked in space as an early Christmas present for the astronomers. Only the delivery service in form of a Soyuz rocket has to be prepared now. The package with the present needs to be picked up and on December 19, 10:12:19 CET we can finally light the Soyuz candle lifting Gaia to the L2 heaven. Great times!
Update Dec. 13: First images of the Christmas package for the astronomers were published by ESA at: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Gaia/Gaia_secured_inside_fairing/. Here they are:
2.) Reports about connecting Gaia to the Fregat upperstage are now available from Arianespace at: http://www.arianespace.com/news-mission-update/2013/1114.asp and in the blog of Isabelle D., the Gaia QA engineer of Astrium, at: http://reves-d-espace.com/2013/12/12/gaia-j-8-couplage-sur-fregat-reussi/. Before both elements could be mated an adapter had to be installed on Gaia. This is described in the latest ESA Gaia blog post http://blogs.esa.int/gaia/2013/12/12/installation-on-the-launch-adapter/ and includes many images. Author of this post is again Isabelle!
3.) ESA has published a new video describing how the Gaia observatory will work by comparing it with examples everybody knows from the real life. Very easy to understand! Here you can find this video: http://spaceinvideos.esa.int/Videos/2013/12/Inside_Gaia_s_billion-pixel_camera.
Exciting times for all involved – also for us scientists and engineers. Do you want to get some insight how we are feeling in these days? Here you can find one answer: https://hvossgaia.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/launch-fever-anyone/.